East Side Mario’s Pasta Challenge Sparks Creativity Amongst Brand Chefs

East Side Mario’s Pasta Challenge Sparks Creativity Amongst Brand Chefs

When it comes to pasta, the famiglia at East Side Mario’s know a thing or two about serving up winning dishes, they even have a competition for it. Enter the pasta challenge. Each year in partnership with Barilla, the brand welcomes contestants from across all restaurants to compete in their annual Pasta Challenge. At stake; $1,000 cash, free Barilla pasta (for a month), bragging rights and let’s not forget the title of Pasta Masta! Plus the winner gets their dish featured on the national East Side Mario’s menu.

“The Barilla Pasta Challenge is the perfect way for our brand to welcome teammates from across Canada and celebrate their talent and innovation.” says Christi Rutledge, Director of Marketing for East Side Mario’s. “Not only does it feed creativity but it also gives them a chance at bragging rights when their winning dish makes the menu.”

From Oakville to Red Deer, 33 recipes were submitted into the 2023 Pasta Challenge. Contestants competed in three rounds with the mission of creating the best pasta dish. First up, the store battle where Chefs compete against their peers in hopes of creating a winning recipe. After store battles come Regionals, in this round, each recipe is cooked and tested with only six recipes being chosen. We’re not at the finals yet! The six recipes are voted on nationally and only three are chosen to compete in the final round. The finalists competing in the 2023 challenge were Lukas Seabrooke (Oakville), Keisha Lass (Red Deer) and Louis Frimpong (Brampton).

Winner Lukas Seabrook (ESM Oakville) and contestants Keisha Lass (ESM Red Deer) & Louis Frimpong (ESM Brampton) with the East Side Mario’s team

The Pasta Challenge kicked off its last round on June 27, at Recipe’s Vaughan office, where the three finalists were welcomed to their final battle. The kitchen was buzzing and seats were full of spectators waiting to see who would be crowned the Pasta Masta. For the final round, Lukas, Keisha and Louis prepared their dishes and presented them to a panel of judges for one final critique. After deliberation and all the pasta tasting, Lukas Seabrook from East Side Mario’s in Oakville was crowned the 2023 Pasta Masta with his winning dish, Linguine Speziata.

Lukas has been with East Side Mario’s for over two years and is incredibly excited to see his winning dish on the menu in January. We caught up with him to get an inside look at what went into creating his dish.

Q. What is the full name of your winning dish and what inspired it?

A. Linguine Speziata. I knew how to make a good pasta, so I took my  time and started writing down what I thought could make it special. I really enjoy spicy, so I was thinking spicy pasta and BAM! went all the way.

Q. Did you have a specific thought process when creating your dish?

A. I really just thought of what I would like the most and hoped that everybody would like what I like, and it just worked out!

Q. What’s your favourite thing to eat at East Side Mario’s?

A. Pizza, 100%! My friend Dylan, who I’ve been working with for years has taught me so many things when it comes to working in the kitchen. We love making our own twists on classic pizzas, like the Ultimate Canadian or a BBQ pizza with bbq sauce on it!

Q. Is there anything else you'd like to share about your experience with East Side Mario’s?

A. I just want to give a shoutout to all my teammates during the time that I have worked here! From the people who first trained me on the pizza and salad station, Nicole and Mickayla. To the guys who helped me learn the line, Dylan and Ravi. I’m also excited to see my pasta on the menu during the Q1 promo! It’s going to be awesome!

Be on the lookout for Lukas’ Linguine Speziata, hitting East Side Mario’s restaurants January 2024!