Culinary students were challenged to create their tastiest pork blade steak entrée for the annual student Taste competition, hosted by the Iowa Pork Producers Association.
Eight teams from four Iowa colleges and universities had two hours in the kitchen to prepare their recipes that were required to utilize pork blade steak. That pork cut is sliced from the same shoulder section known as a Boston butt, which is commonly slow-cooked for pulled pork.
"These aspiring chefs help make the pork industry successful," said Kelsey Sutter, IPPA’s marketing and programs director. "This competition is a learning opportunity and hopefully encourages them to serve pork wherever their careers take them."
Teams consisted of two to four students, and their entrées were judged on taste, appearance, complementing side dishes, and design. The competition took place at the Iowa Culinary Institute on the Des Moines Area Community College campus in Ankeny.
The first-place team from Iowa State University was the Culinary CYentists, a play on ISU's Cy the Cardinal mascot. Members included sophomore Jaelyn Luong, Des Moines; sophomore Izabele Jaime, Mason City; junior Evelyn Greenbury, Arlington Heights, Illinois; and freshman Lucas Brown, Lakewood Ranch, Florida.
They fused Japanese and Korean influences into a bowl of ramen. The Japanese noodle soup was topped with pork blade steak cooked in a sweet and spicy gochujang sauce (red chili paste used in Korean cooking), along with enoki mushrooms, a soy-marinated egg, kimchi (Korean dish of spicy pickled cabbage), green onions, and toasted sesame seeds.
"The pork was done perfectly—great flavor!" noted Chef Jesus Ojeda with Clive Behavioral Health in Clive, who served as a judge for the event. Ojeda had participated in IPPA's similar Taste contest for professional chefs in January.
Each member of the winning team was awarded $100 from IPPA. In addition, ISU's culinary food science program received $750 for scholarships or educational supplies.
The judges selected The Spice Girls, from Iowa Western Community College in Council Bluffs, for second place. The team's Mexican-inspired fajitas featured citrus-marinated pork from Gettler Farms in Red Oak. The meat was sliced thin and soaked in the zest and juice of oranges, limes and lemons, with vinegar and other spices, then combined with onions and peppers and served with homemade tortillas, rice and beans mixed with pickled vegetables, and salsa verde.
First-year students McCartney Sanny, Oakland; Evelyn Martinez, Council Bluffs; Alayna Chapman, Polo, Missouri; and Yazmyn Sánchez, Omaha, Nebraska, each won $50 from IPPA. Their school received an additional $500.
Third place went to the Rowdy Parsnips, made up of first-year student Katie Murdock, Anamosa; and second-year student Victoria Fox, North Liberty. They attend Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids. The duo prepared pork blade steak roulade, with the pork rolled around an oyster mushroom and pine nut filling. In addition, the complete plate had parsnip puree and hash, Brussel sprouts and beet slaw, and a raspberry-balsamic reduction. They received $25 each and $250 for Kirkwood.
Teams from DMACC also participated in this year's contest.
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 reimburses them for mileage.