Proving Des Moines is NOT boring

Iowa’s Best Bite Restaurant Challenge: Bringing home the bacon for small-town Iowa

It’s “Doc Hollywood” meets “Top Chef.” On May 16, four Des Moines residents won Iowa’s Best Bite Restaurant Challenge in Oskaloosa, Iowa, narrowly defeating a talented team from New York to win a $153,000 restaurant startup package. The restaurant – On The Green – is targeted to open in July. The $153,000 package of operating capitol, equipment and marketing incentives are provided by various entities in Oskaloosa. The restaurant will be at the Oskaloosa golf course.

Iowa's Best Bite

Chef Pam Oldes (in white) hugs Suzanne Muntz while Zane Muntz and Shayna Bruce look on

Contest organizer Bryan Schultz says Iowa’s Best Bites, “… looks to place restaurateurs in rural Iowa communities where they might not otherwise look.” This is the second year of the nation-wide competition and the second year the winners have been local talent. “We believe great things can happen in small communities. Iowa’s Best Bite Restaurant Challenge shows talented chefs they do have alternatives when it comes to where they work and live. Even though it’s a nationwide talent search, it’s nice that the first two years it’s gone to someone local.”

The winning team is:

  • Chef Pam Oldes is a consulting chef for Sodexo and Grinnell Steak House and also has a degree in PR. Chef Pam prepares familiar foods with a healthy, flavorful twist, her take on new American cuisine
  • Zane and Suzanne Muntz are owners of design-build architecture firm Design Crew – will help with the marketing/design and the business end of the restaurant
  • Shanya Bruce is an executive trainer who will train the staff.

Pam recently moved back to Iowa from Washington, D.C. for family reasons so this came about at a great time for her. She received two job offers after last year’s competition!

The four entered last year as two separate teams, then teamed up this year to win with what Schultz says is, “… quite an impressive team when they combine all of their various skills.”

Judging was done by local business leaders along with Jim Mondanaro, an Iowa City restaurateur of reknown. There was a 12-person local tasting panel along with four judges focused on the business end of things. Teams had to come with a solid biz plan and five years of financial projections to go along with a great menu. “They had to know the business side before they cooked for anybody,” says Schultz.

The people in Oskaloosa are thrilled with the outcome of the competition, giving them unique dining options they’d previously have had to drive to Des Moines or Iowa City to enjoy.

“Some people think, ‘small town, small opportunities.’ But there is a large opportunity in Oskaloosa. The winners really grasped this . The people in Oskaloosa are ready for this restaurant!”

– Bryan Schultz, contest organizer, Iowa’s Best Bites

The competition is already looking for next year’s city! If you know a chef who is ready to own their own restaurant, contact Bryan Schultz to get on the contact list for next year’s competition.

Coming soon! On The Green

2214 South 11th Street in Oskaloosa, Iowa.