Jerk Pork Taco takes top prize in Pork + Pinot chef competition

Sama’s winning entry featured pork shoulder marinated for 48 hours in Jamaican jerk seasoning.

October 26, 2023

2 Min Read

A Des Moines caterer claimed the top prize at a professional competition that challenged local chefs to deliver the best pork and wine pairing.

Pork + Pinot, a Winefest Des Moines event presented by the Iowa Pork Producers Association, offered swine-centric cuisine from six central Iowa chefs, with each dish complemented by a different pinot noir, a type of red wine. Nearly 160 attended the third-annual culinary contest and social soiree last week at the FFA Enrichment Center in Ankeny.

Amara Sama, of Des Moines-based Palm’s Caribbean Cuisine, took home the first-place honors. Sama also received the People’s Choice award by those attending Pork + Pinot. Chef participants could use pork belly, shoulder or loin as a main ingredient.

Sama’s winning Jerk Pork Taco featured pork shoulder marinated for 48 hours in Jamaican jerk seasoning, then smoked over a wood and charcoal mixture. The meat was topped with mango salsa, jerk chipotle sour cream and cotija cheese.

“This is always a fun event, to network with people and get feedback to motivate us,” said Sama, a repeat contender. Palm’s fuses Caribbean and West African fare, and can be found at festivals, farmers markets and other large gatherings across the state.

Sama received an IPPA gift package for each award and a total of $650.

The judges selected Mariela Maya, of Panka in Des Moines, for second place. Maya concocted a Pork Shoulder Sandwich with Relish, Onions and Peruvian Spicy Sauce. She received $150 and an IPPA gift.

Kelsey Sutter, IPPA’s marketing and programs director, noted that October is National Pork Month, which salutes all of those who have a hand in pork production.

“We want to remind people that pork doesn’t just show up at these events,” Sutter said. “Our farmers work tirelessly behind the scenes to get delicious pork to distributors and restaurants for chefs to explore their innovation and creativity.”

Other chefs and their dishes were:

  • Chawn Choun, Sarinade in Waukee, Pork Belly and Pineapple Egg Rolls.

  • Brandon Liss, Aura Restaurant & Lounge in Clive, Pork Belly and Potato Croquette.

  • Dominic Iannarelli, Splash Seafood Bar & Grill in Des Moines, Slow Smoked Bacon Wrapped Shoulder Tenders.

  • Brandon Persaud, Fresko in Des Moines, Braised Pork Shoulder.

IPPA’s event sponsorship included $500 for each chef to cover the costs of the food that was prepared.

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