(CLIVE, Iowa) - A Dubuque chef was named Chef Par Excellence at the Iowa Pork Producers Association's 31st annual Iowa Pork Taste of Elegance contest on Jan. 23 in Des Moines.
Ben Jones with Brazen Open Kitchen & Bar in Dubuque captured top honors in the culinary contest at the Community Choice Credit Union Convention Center. Jones earned a plaque and $1,000 for his "Pork Tenderloin, Textures of Carrot, Hazelnut Dukka, Pigtail Briouat entrée." Jones also receives a trip to the National Pork Summit in St. Helena, Calif., this spring.
In addition to being named Chef Par Excellence, the Dubuque chef also captured the Media's Choice Award and another $250.
Dubuque chefs have dominated the contest in recent years. Chef Jon Nelson of the Diamond Jo Casino's Wood Fire Grille in Dubuque earned the top honors last year and in 2012.
Chef Justin Scardina with the Norse Culinary Team at Luther College in Decorah won second place, or Superior Chef honors. He received $500, plus a plaque, for his entrée titled "Apple Brandy Poached Pork Tenderloin with Sweet Potato Thyme Tart, Fennel Jam, Cherry Mostrada, Apple Brandy Honey Reduction and Crisp Smoke Pork "Chip."
Third place went to Chef Jordan Walton with Harvey's Diner & Pub in Redfield. He prepared "Pan Seared Pork Tenderloin, Basil and Sweet Potato Bread Pudding, Hoisin Braised Mustard Greens, Caramelized Mandarin, Red Pear Ponzu Sauce" and earned the Premier Chef plaque and $250.
A dozen chefs from around the state competed for the awards in the afternoon and all were required to prepare an original pork tenderloin entrée. A team of judges selected the winners on the basis of taste, appearance and originality.
"The event gets better every year and the competition in the kitchen was at an all-time high," said Chef Phil Carey of the IPPA Restaurant and Foodservice Committee.
A crowd of 340 invited and paid guests attended the evening reception, which featured samples from all 12 entrees, appetizers and samples of wine and beer from several Iowa wineries and breweries. The guests also were able to select their favorite pork entrée for the People's Choice Award. That went to Chef Kurt Nyguard of the 1910 Grille in Mason City. He prepared "Seared Pork Tenderloin Medallions with Sauteed Mushrooms and Apples, Cherry Molasses, Butternut Squash Puree, Honeyed Broccolini." Nyguard won $250 and a plaque.
Judging this year's competition were Chef Tim Oathout of Zeppelins Bar & Grill in Cedar Rapids, Chef Monkut Sayasit Batas Restaurant in Cedar Rapids, and Wini Moranville, restaurant reporter for DSM Magazine and on Facebook at All Things Food DSM-Wini Moranville. The evening reception was emceed by KCCI-TV anchor Eric Hanson.
"Opening our doors to the public for the first time was a great success. Our pork-loving consumers loved sampling the chefs' entrees, and pairing those samples with great Iowa wine and beer was the cherry on top," said IPPA Marketing/Programs Director Kelsey Sutter.
The Taste of Elegance is a Pork Checkoff-funded culinary competition designed to inspire innovative and exciting ways to menu pork. This event brings together talented chefs from across Iowa for an elegant occasion that highlights pork and its popularity as a menu favorite.
The IPPA Taste of Elegance competition and reception helped kick off the 45th annual Iowa Pork Congress.
Editor's note: photos will be provided upon request.