Restaurant Challenge Seeks Applicants, Judges - News and Weather For The Quad Cities -

Restaurant Challenge Seeks Applicants, Judges

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A competition to put a restaurant into a historical West Liberty, IA, building will be held on July 9, 2014. Organizers say Iowa's Best Bite is beneficial for both the selected chef and the city. They're not only looking for talented chefs, but also judges who are willing to spend a day tasting delicious food.

"You have to have a love for food," said Shannon McNaul of We Lead, West Liberty's economic development agency. "We get to kind of look at it as a community and decide, what would we like?"

This is the third year Opposable Thumbs, a marketing agency, has offered the competition. It was previously held in Grinnell and Oskaloosa. Organizers are seeking 15 to 20 judges for the West Liberty challenge by June 16, 2014. That's the deadline for chefs, too, who are pitching their all-star ideas for the building built more than a century ago.

"It's been a doctor's office, it's been a chiropractor's office, it's been apartments," McNaul said.

She says the winning restaurant should help improve the downtown area.

"We're missing a restaurant," she said. "If you wanted to go out for an upper scale meal here, you would have to drive into Iowa City, and we don't want people to go to Iowa City. Not that we're against it, but we want Iowa City people to come here."

She says the restaurant is also benefiting, with a startup package worth $120,000. It includes free rent for six months, and reduced rent for the remaining time. The winner will also receive financial and marketing help. If the restaurant stays for three years, and signs a contract for another three years, it will get all of the equipment in the building, which is worth $80,000.

"They have to show us that they understand food cost, and sustainability, because we don't want somebody to come in here and fail," McNaul said.

Organizers will select three finalists, and the community will add one more from online voting.

"When we get down to two, then they have a cook off, and that's the really exciting day," McNaul said.

For more information or to apply to become a tasting judge, visit

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