In the battle to delight guests, Marriott International turned F&B into a competition. The hospitality brand’s Masters of the Craft is staging television-style cooking challenges at properties across the country, leading to a finale that will take place at Marriott Headquarters in Bethesda, Maryland, at the end of October.

Smart Meetings caught up with the hopeful chefs and bartenders at San Francisco Marriott Marquis this week for the Western Regional rounds of an elimination tree that started in March. Under the watchful eye of San Francisco Marriott Marquis General Manager Mike Kass, contestants chopped, cooked, shook and stirred their way to fame.

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After five rounds of quickfire cooking and mixology challenges, including secret ingredients and challenging time limits (30 minutes for chefs and seven minutes for bartenders), the three local judges—Gerald Hirogoyen, chef/owner of Piperade; Adam Jed, co-owner of Amuse Management Group and Bluestem Brasserie; and Roland Passot, chef/owner of La Folie and Left Bank Brasserie—announced the winners.

The Winners Are…

Burmaa Munkhbat, a complex purchaser from The Westin Bellevue in Washington was the culinary winner. She was born in Mongolia and graduated from South Seattle College culinary arts program with an associate degree in restaurant management and catering operations. She said that moving to Seattle changed her taste palette and view on food.

“Going from a country where food was a necessity to live to a region with an abundance of food where you can choose any cuisine was a shock,” she said. Now, she dedicates herself to “spreading a feeling of comfort and joy through cooking.”

Timothy Deenihan, a bartender from The Westin Seattle, was the beverage winner. He described himself as a lifelong nomad, fueled by wanderlust. The Pittsburgh native studied aerospace engineering, writing and acting at University of Notre Dame and trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London. He compared a well-designed cocktail to a compelling novel.

“It should have villains and heroes, and unfold with different flavors as the drinker progresses through the layers,” he said.

The two will advance to the semifinals at Marriott Marquis Washington, D.C., in October. The hospitality community can follow along using the hashtag #mastersofthecraft.