Culinary students had one main rule: Prepare an entrée using ground pork. For the next two hours, the 11 teams from five Iowa colleges and universities showed off their creative juices as they hustled around the kitchen during the Iowa Pork Producers Association Student Taste competition this month.
The annual event took place at the Iowa Culinary Institute on the Des Moines Area Community College campus in Ankeny.
"What I love about ground pork is how versatile and cost-effective it is when compared to other proteins," says Kelsey Sutter, IPPA's marketing and programs director. "Pork is adaptable to fit in so many recipe styles, and this rang true as we saw entrees featuring completely different flavor profiles and associated with various ethnicities."
Teams consisted of two to four students, and their dishes were judged on taste, appearance, complementing side dishes and design.
The first-place team included Trevor Schueneman, Sac City; Lucas Alstott, Fort Dodge; Eliazer Lozano, Eldora; and Gavin Plagman, Lake City, all first-year students attending Iowa Central Community College in Fort Dodge. They prepared sous vide porchetta stuffed with ground pork and served with pea puree, roasted fingerling potatoes, crispy parsnips and herb salad.
Each member of the team was awarded $100 from IPPA. In addition, the Iowa Central culinary program received $750 for scholarships or educational supplies.
Another team from Iowa Central placed second. The group's pork kebab with peppers and onions was served on a garlic flatbread with pickled vegetable salad and cilantro-lime yogurt sauce. First-year student Avery Bardole, Jefferson, along with second-year students Kristine Frideres, Lu Verne; Viatris Scott, Pilot Mound; and Sarah Sundene, Aurelia, each won $50 from IPPA. Their school received an additional $500.
Third place went to The "Bao Bun Babes," made up of first-year students Sam Monroe, Roseville, Ill., and Emma Conlon, Clarion, as well as second-year student Hunter Johnson, Marion, from Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids. Their Asian-inspired Duroc pork burger on a steamed bun was served with pickled daikon slaw, gochujang aioli, tempura vegetables and wheat noodle salad with sesame-ginger vinaigrette. They received $25 each and $250 for Kirkwood.
"Beautiful, beautiful plates," says Chef Aaron Holt of Doolittle Farm in Story City, one of three judges who provided immediate feedback. "I would have no problem putting all of them on my menus."
Other judges included Bryce Duling, from Mistress Brewing Company in Ankeny, and Chelsey Van Genderen, program manager at the U.S. Pork Center of Excellence in Des Moines.
Also participating in this year's contest were teams from DMACC; Indian Hills Community College in Ottumwa; and Iowa State University in Ames.
IPPA's Student Taste event is open to any Iowa college or university with a culinary arts program. IPPA provides each school with $500 for food and contest expenses, and also reimburses them for mileage.
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