For the second consecutive year, a culinary team from Iowa State University clinched the prestigious top prize in the Iowa Pork Producers Association’s (IPPA) student Taste competition March 6 at the Iowa Culinary Institute at Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC) in Ankeny.

Culinary “Cy”entist, a play on ISU’s Cy mascot, wowed the judges with its classic American meal of meat, potatoes and vegetables fused with Japanese ingredients.  

Slices of pork loin glazed with red wine and miso were served alongside shaved Brussels sprouts seasoned with togarashi (chili pepper) and potato mochi, a potato patty with a crispy shell, chewy center and sweet and savory sauce.

Team members Christabel Forney of Ames; Evelyn Greenbury of Arlington Heights, Illinois; Izabel Jaime of Mason City; and Julain Sinkler of Queens, New York; said the dish was inspired by classic childhood meals.

“We all grew up with mashed potatoes and pork in our house and with a vegetable on the side,” said Greenbury. “But recently there’s been a lot of fusion cuisine that we’ve seen in grocery stores and restaurants. We wanted to bring Japanese cuisine to something classically American.”

Jaime said they focused on simplicity, making sure the pork was cooked well. 

“I wouldn’t say we went outside of the box,” Jaime said. “We kind of focused on what we could do, which is good cooking technique, temping, etc.”

Judges praised the dish for its tenderness and a concept that was creative and new. Entries were judged on taste, appearance, complementing side dishes and design.

“The pork was cooked excellent with slight pink presentation,” said judge Tanner Killinger with Des Moines Embassy Club.  

Killinger won second place, or superior chef, during the Taste event for professional chefs in Des Moines in January.

Taking second place was Spice Girls 2.0 from Iowa Western Community College in Council Bluffs with its Mexican-themed carnitas torta featuring citrus-marinated pork from Gettler Farms in Red Oak. Team members included Alayna Chapman of Polo, Missouri; Evelyn Martinez of Council Bluffs; and Yazmyn Sanchez of Omaha.

Third place went to Hog Honchos from Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids with team members Lee DeLoach Jr. of Marion; Connor Echternacht of Tiffin; and Christian Snyder of Burlington. 

The group prepared pan-roasted Duroc pork loin over a pork consommé, a clear soup made with concentrated stock.

Pictured above: The winning dish was pork loin glazed with red wine and miso served alongside shaved Brussels sprouts seasoned with togarashi and potato mochi, a potato patty with a crispy shell, chewy center and sweet and savory sauce. PHOTO CONTRIBUTED

Showcasing pork

Kelsey Sutter, IPPA marketing and programs director, said the goal of the competition is to expose students to different types of pork cuts as they consider future culinary careers.

“Pork has it all — whether you’re wanting something with rich, deep flavors or a healthy, lean protein,” Sutter said. “Pork loin is very versatile and a cut that can take on any flavor profile, and that is on full display here when you look at all of the plates.”

Killinger and fellow judge Josh Larson said the culinary competition is one-of-a-kind, offering students hands-on learning.

“This type of competition is important to the state of Iowa to ensure that up-and-coming culinary leaders are challenged to create exciting entrees with pork,” said Larson, who attended the Iowa Culinary Institute at DMACC and has been involved in the pork industry throughout his life. “Pork is underutilized in restaurant/foodservice, and we like to spotlight that with these competitions.”

Added Killinger: “Competitions like these are important because they help develop the next generation of chefs, not only in Iowa but all over the world.

“Advice I give to any aspiring culinary artist is to never stop learning. There is always something new on the horizon.”

Judge Nancy Degner said it was fun to interact with the student chefs to see what they learned through the competition.

“Several teams commented that they learned you don’t need to cook pork to the well-done stage that they grew up with,” Degner said. “This is a key learning point for all those student chefs and the future of successful pork preparation.”

Each member of the winning team was awarded $100 from IPPA. In addition, ISU’s culinary food science program received $750 for scholarships for educational supplies. Second-place students were awarded $50 each with $500 provided to their school. Third-place students re­ceived $25 each and $250 to the school.