Elmwood, Aya Sofia, and Juniper winners at Lux Living’s Takeout Challenge

The restaurants took top honors in the casual, international, and fine dining categories, respectively.

St. Louis has a new takeout champion—or three of them, to be exact—thanks to Lux Living. Today, the real estate company crowned three winners of its Takeout Challenge, with ElmwoodAya Sofia, and Juniper taking top honors.

Nineteen restaurants participated in the challenge, representing three different categories: casual, international, and fine dining. Over the course of three days, participants presented their dishes in to-go boxes to judges, who picked the two top entries for each day to participate in the finals of the head-to-head competition.

In the final round, Juniper edged out its competition in the fine-dining category, serving up roasted pork shoulder over grits with roasted vegetables. Elmwood took top honors in the casual category, offering two menu favorites, spicy fried chicken sandwich and grilled broccoli caesar salad. And Aya Sofia was the winner of the international group, presenting marinated duck with Turkish ricotta ravioli.

The Takeout Challenge is the brainchild of Lux Living’s Victor Alston and Kyle Hennessey. The two wanted to show their support for the St. Louis restaurant community in a creative way, so they came up with the friendly competition as a way to both give back and to provide a workshopping opportunity for restaurants as they navigate the new takeout landscape. The company set aside $30,000 for the challenge, with all participants receiving $1,000 just for entering. The winners in each category received additional prize money. As Hennessey notes, the point of the challenge was not so much who won or lost but that restaurants be given financial support during this time of unprecedented stress.

“One of our company values at Lux Living is give back, which means give back to the community,” Hennessey says. “When people are suffering, and you are able to help out, you lend a helping hand.”

The $30,000 was part of a larger $100,000 donation made by Lux Living: $50,000 earmarked for Covid vaccine research at SLU and the remaining $20,000 going to Operation Food Search.

The Lux Living Takeout Challenge was produced in partnership with Hamilton Hospitality and emceed and facilitated by John Dalton. Moulin event space served as the site of the event; the large space allowed for social distancing between the handful of people on site.

As participants and judges noted, the COVID-19 pandemic presents a unique challenge for both restaurants and the dining community as people struggle to figure out how they can continue to get the food and beverages they love in a safe manner. The challenge focused on to-go food as a way of speaking to the new reality that restaurants face, at least for the forseeable future.

“We are immensely invested in St. Louis, and restaurants are essential to our neighborhoods and communities,” Alston says. “We need to see them back and thriving. There is a growing food culture in this town, and it’s exciting to make that a part of our new communities. We are excited to give back and help them in a time of need with this fun food competition.”