STURGIS — Celebrity Chef Justin Warner said he is not just in the Black Hills to judge the South Dakota Beef Industry Council’s Beef Throw Down, but also to share with his world-wide audience the story of those who produce some of the finest beef in the world.

Warner, the Season 8 winner of Food Network Star, said he has immense respect for producers.

“As a chef, I know where our food comes from, it comes from South Dakota. It comes from the Midwest. I don’t think a lot of people understand just how many mouths get fed by so few people,” he said.

Warner, who is married to Brooke Sweeten of Rapid City, hopes to share that message with his international social media following. 

Ten restaurants are competing for top honors in the beef throw down. The restaurant which has the winning signature dish will get bragging rights and VIP passes for two to the Sanford International pro golf tournament in September in Sioux Falls.

Warner compared his judging style for the throw down to that which he uses when judging Guy’s Grocery Games on the Food Network.

“I want to see their best. I want to see ingenuity. And I want to see beef being showcased,” he said. “Obviously it has to taste good, but those other three things are really going to have to back it up.”

Warner said the Beef Throw Down has been absolutely “Beeftactular.”

He said as judge of the competition he had tasted lots of burgers and steaks so far.

“We have had a real good cross section so that I could get a taste of what people like and what people celebrate in this area,” he said. 

On Wednesday at The Knuckle Saloon, Warner judged the Murtha Burger – a half-pound burger topped with jalapeno jam and crispy onion straws. 

“I thought that all the food that I have had demonstrated a lot of enthusiasm for South Dakota beef,” he said.

Warner’s co-judge on Wednesday at The Knuckle and later at The Loud American Road House in Sturgis was Gary Deering, a Meade County rancher and member of the South Dakota Beef Industry Council. 

As part of the throw down, anyone can pick up a beef passport. Participants must visit at least three restaurants, order their signature beef dish and return the stamped book to rally headquarters by Aug. 11. They are then eligible for prizes with top prize being $500 in Beef Bucks. 

Participating restaurants include Red Rock, Wall, The Knuckle, Sturgis, The Loud American Road House, Sturgis, T-Grille, Deadwood, Flyt, Deadwood, Country Side Grill, Rapid City, Vertex Sky Bar/Paddy O’Neill’s, Rapid City, Sliders Bar & Grill, Rapid City, Alpine Inn, Hill City, and Baker’s Bakery & Café, Custer.

The winner will be announced at noon today, at Harley-Davidson Rally Point.

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