Sidebar is the third location that I’m judging food at for the 2015 Dine Iowa Grand Tasting Gala event.

This is my second year of judging for this event.

Chef Robert Anderson and I are the main judges. It is a privilege to get to work with him, the IRA staff, and members from both the Soy and Beef Councils.

During the next couple of weeks, leading up to the September 24th event, we have 8 different restaurants to visit. These restaurants are all across Iowa. 


There seems to be always something special when a restaurant is crip, clean and full of natural light. That’s what you’ll find when you visit Sidebar in downtown Des Moines. If you’re any type of Foodster, this restaurant screams Instagram. With it’s chic plates, trendy gelato and delicious cocktails and coffee you’re surely going to get a chance at a great picture. Not only will you get a great picture but you’ll get a great experience of high-quality food and exceptional service. The staff are dressed to the T and knowledgeable and professional. This isn’t your standard coffee bar and light food bar. Food, service and experience are the main focus.

sidebar des moines

photo via Sidebar Facebook

It’s one of those places where you could easily start your day with coffee or a chai tea latte – which I’ve heard are simply amazing – and come back at the end of the day for a local beer, wine or craft cocktail. 

You can check out Sidebar’s menu here:

2015-09-15 17.27.12 Sidebar Mongolian Beef



The Chef at Sidebar

Chef Andrew Havlovic leads the way at Sidebar.

Chef Andrew Havlovic

Chef Andrew Havlovic

Since this contest is about the chef and their skills, I wanted focus on them a little more by asking some questions. Here are 7 questions with Chef Andrew

  1. How Many Years Have You Been A Chef?
    I’ve worked in kitchens since I was 16, which means I’ve been in kitchens for the last 15 years. In 2007 I landed my first sous chef job at the Elkridge Club in Baltimore, MD.
  2. Where did you learn to become a chef?
    I grew up on a farm, so I learned the importance of quality food at an early age. As a kid I would always watch cooking shows on TV and tried to replicate what I saw. As my career progressed, I’ve had the opportunity to work with some amazing chefs, and I’ve taken a lot away from that. 
  3. Do you have a chef that you look up to?
    My first idol chef was Thomas Keller. His cookbook, The French Laundry, is still my favorite cookbook of all time. His clean style and demand for perfection is always something I’ve admired.
  4. The best thing about being a chef is __________.
    The best part of being a chef is being creative. Cooking is a chance to be creative on so many levels and watching people enjoy something you created is very satisfying.
  5. The best playlist for cooking has to include (artist, song etc.)
    The best playlist for cooking has to include some Hootie and the Blowfish.

  6. What’s your favorite thing to cook outside of “the office”?
    My favorite thing to cook outside the office – I get on kicks, I’m on a Szechuan kick right now so my home pantry is filled with all kinds of chilies and fermented things. I usually try and see what I can fit in one pan and eat out of that same pan because I don’t enjoy doing dishes.

  7. What or who inspired you to become a chef?
    As a kid, my family always valued the importance of a good meal. My Grandpa was an amazing home chef that cooked authentic Czech food. I have memories of making Paprikash with him when I was 7 years old. The recipe started by going outside and catching a chicken that was running around in the yard. Seeing food in that way is probably what influenced me to take cooking seriously.


The Meal

Rules: With this event, each competitor will prepare a main entrée recipe utilizing Braveheart Black Angus Beef Top Sirloin, donated byPerformance Food Group (at least six ounces of cooked beef must be used). Additionally, each competitor will prepare a Tofu (soft-silken or water packed) side dish or sauce (at least a 1⁄4 cup of tofu must be used).

Main Dish

Chef Andrew created a great version of Mongolian Beef along with a tofu waffle. That’s right, a tofu waffle. 

Mongolian Beef at Sidebar

Mongolian Beef at Sidebar

The main feature of the plate was the sirloin which was prepared in a way that I haven’t seen before. It’s a very trendy way to cook over in Europe but not as common in the states. The method of cooking that I’m talking about is called Sous-Vide. Sous-Vide is a method of cooking in which food is sealed in airtight plastic bags then placed in a water bath or in a temperature-controlled steam environment. As you can see, it produces a beautiful looking piece of meat. 

The other main feature of the plate was the infamous tofu waffle. The one item that we can’t stop talking about. Andy removed the moisture from the extra firm tofu and then literally pressed it in the waffle iron for about 4 minutes until it became crispy. It was something we’ve never seen before. 

The final feature of the plate was ginger Rice Krispies. It was a simple treat on the plate that added some extra flavors and offered a fun surprise to us. 

All of this was topped off with a soy caramel sauce.


Sidebar competition plate

Sidebar competition plate


This is one plate that you can’t miss out on at the Grand Tasting Gala.


Photo via Chef Andrew Havlovic

Photo via Chef Andrew Havlovic


Chef Andy displayed a wonderful plate. He should be proud of his presentation.

Contact Sidebar

400 Locust St., Suite 130, Des Moines

Phone: 515-537-8433

Hours: 7 a.m. – 9 p.m., daily
(Open later on nights with Civic Center events)

I’m so excited for the next couple of weeks and I am eager to see how creative the competing chefs can be!

2015 Grand Tasting Gala Website banner

About Nick Lucs

Nick is the founder of Des Moines Foodster. He was born and raised in Des Moines and has always had a passion for being creative in the kitchen. Des Moines Foodster has appeared in Travel + Leisure, Juice Magazine, amNY, Travel Iowa and the Greater Des Moines Convention & Visitors Bureau blog. He believes that coffee and craft beer make the world go 'round .

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