Who is Dayton’s ‘Best Chef?’ The answer may surprise you.

The ballots are counted, the results are in, and we now know who will wear the crown (or crowns) of Dayton’s “Best Chef” until NEXT year’s “Signature Chefs Competition” March of Dimes event.

The winner of the “People’s Choice” award — as voted by the nearly 400 attendees of last night’s Signature Chef Auction fund-raiser at the Schuster Performing Arts Center Wintergarden — was Chris Alexander, chef at the Kroger Fresh Fare grocery store at East Stroop and Shroyer roads in Kettering.

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Alexander served Butter Poached Cod Loin with Pureed Roasted Squash and a Mushroom Mélange. The dish had an accent from a whole grain mustard sauce and was topped with crispy fried beet chips, making for a comforting dish with multiple textures, from the creamy pureed squash to the crunchy, deeply colored beet chips.

The Judges’ Award went to Matt DeAngulo, chef at Citilites and the Schuster Center. DeAngulo served Gravlax Beet Salmon, Red Cabbage Gazpacho, Fresh Mozzarella and Mustard Mousse, a colorful, complex dish that was a hit with the five-judge panel.

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(Disclosure: I served as one of the judges for the event. The panel also included Chef Anne Kearney, former co-owner of Rue Dumaine; Paula Johnson, dining critic for the Dayton City Paper; Sallie Taylor, co-host of “Living Dayton” on WDTN-TV; and Maureen Patterson, retired vice president of the Dayton Development Coalition.)

This year’s event featured a diverse array of chefs who were representing not only restaurants, but also a university, a casino, a country club, a senior-living center, and the largest grocery chain in the U.S. And the grocery-store chain captured the top People’s Choice award.

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A 2002 graduate of the New England Culinary Institute, Alexander collected plenty of local restaurant experience before he joined Kroger in 2009, including stints at C’est Tout, Blue Moon and l’Auberge, all fine-dining restaurants that are now defunct.

DeAngulo is in his third year at Citilites, but he too is a veteran of the local restaurant scene, working at King Cole, Olivia’s, and Olive, an Urban Dive, and also operated his own restaurant, Urban Harvest, in Clayton.

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This is the 14th year of the Signature Chefs Auction event, which for several years running has drawn a sellout crowd of between 350 and 400 people. This year’s event drew more than 350 guests who raised $152,000, according to a news release

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