Michigan Pork Producers Association recently held the 27th Annual Taste of Elegance in Lansing, Mich. The cooking competition was held in conjunction with the 2017 Michigan Pork Symposium (page 10) and featured original pork entrées from some of Michigan’s top chefs!

This year’s entries made for a competitive night with a variety of creative and delectable dishes being placed on the judges’ table. Those judges included 2016 Taste of Elegance winner Paul Adams, Hawshead, South Haven, MI; Neel Sahni, National Foodservice Marketing Manager, National Pork Board; and Gordon Wenk, Deputy Director, Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development Chair, Michigan Grape and Wine Industry Council.

The winning dish, Thit Kho and Bun Thit Noung -”Soup and Sandwich” was prepared by Chef Eric Batten from Brody Square & Heritage Commons, East Lansing. The judges described his preparation as having “great flavor and a beautiful appearance.” They added, “Its spot on with some true authentic flavors coming through!” Along with the title he received $1000 dollars.

In second place as Superior Chef was Kurt Kwiatkowski, Michigan State University, East Lansing. The judges called Kwiatkowski’s dish, Grilled BBQ Pork Steak Chop with collard greens, creamy cheese grits, and house BBQ sauce perfectly cooked with great flavor.

Chef Joseph McCullough, Concordia University, Ann Arbor, took Premium Chef, third place, with his dish Apple Wood Smoked Pork Belly with Parsnip Puree, Sugo Finto & Fig Demi Glace. The judges called the dish tender and juicy.

Audience involvement has always been a key component of the Taste of Elegance competition with the People’s Choice award. During the competition, the chef’s dishes are displayed and the spectators are asked to vote on the most aesthetically pleasing dish. This year’s award went to Chef Eric Batten from Brody Square & Heritage Commons, East Lansing, who was also the first place winner.

Another component of audience involvement was the opportunity to participate as a guest judge, one was assigned to each chef. The guest judges ranged from legislators to pork producers. This engagement, along with the opportunity for spectators to sample the chef’s dishes after judging, made for a delicious and palate-enticing event!

The Michigan Grape and Wine Industry Council again sponsored the event and selected several Michigan wines for the chefs to use with their dishes. The Pork and Wine Pairing award was given to Chef Brent Peterson, Camille’s on the River, Mt. Pleasant. His entrée Prosciutto Wrapped Pork Tenderloin with Root Vegetable Pave and Mushroom Ragout paired with Black Star Farms 2013 Arcturos Pinot Noir. As winner, he received a wine and cheese tote. The Michigan Grape and Wine Industry Council also sponsored a wine sampling of a variety of award-winning Michigan Wines for the evening’s attendees.

Over the years, Michigan pork producers have donated funds to the Food Bank Council of Michigan to help feed those in need. This year MPPA continued their support by giving $2500 to purchase pork products along with a bag of pork-themed grocery items.

Other participating chefs included Jimmy Hill from the Saffron Cafe in Coldwater; Joe Coudron from Bravo Restaurant in Kalamazoo; Frank Turchan from Michigan Dining in Ann Arbor; Matthew Nelson from Mission Point Resort on Mackinac Island; Jeff Baird from Divani in Grand Rapids, Cheyenne Galbraith from Bistro on the Boulevard in St. Joseph; Robert Shipman, Jr. from The English Inn in Eaton Rapids; and Lisa Green from Canal Street Cafe in Augusta.