Michigan Pork Producers Association recently held the 26th Annual Taste of Elegance in Lansing, Mich. The cooking competition was held in conjunction with the 2016 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 2015 Taste of Elegance winner Eric Batten, The Gallery at Michigan State University; Kevin Cronin, chef/owner of Daddy’s Little Grill and Fender Vendor, LLC; and Corbett Day, Culinary Arts & Hospitality Instructor, Capital Area Career Center.

The winning dish, Pork Beets Roses was prepared by Chef Paul Adams from Hawkshead Restaurant in South Haven. The judges described his preparation as “beautiful, original and creative.” They added, “Your passion is visible on your plate and presentation was unbelievable!” Adams is a first time winner of the title of Chef Par Excellence, but has participated for a number of years. Along with the title he received $1000 dollars and a trip to the National Taste of Elegance Educational Summit at the Culinary Institute of America’s Greystone Campus in St. Helena, California, compliments of National Pork Board.

In second place as Superior Chef was Jim Morse, The Boathouse Restaurant, Traverse City. Morse was the 2014 Chef Par Excellence. His dish, Pork Pot Au Feu with Smoked Tomato Broth and baby vegetables was flavorful and tender with an amazing broth.

Chef Frank Turchan, Michigan Dining, Ann Arbor, took Premium Chef, third place, with his dish Michigan Apple Cider Cherry Braised Pork Cheeks over Sweet Potato Succotash. This was the first year Turchan participated. The judges enjoyed the fantastic apple flavor and color of the dish.

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 Joey Fackler from Joe Bologna Trattoria, Sterling Heights. His dish, Pure Michigan Country Boy Dinner, featured a large chargrilled chop with Brussel sprouts and seasoned potatoes.

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 guest attendees to pork producers like Brian Pridgeon, MPPA Board Director from Montgomery. 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 David Payne from The Links of Novi. His entrée The Links BBQ Ribs with Habanero Lime Slaw paired with St. Julian 2014 Reserve Riesling. 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. The donations were accepted by Food Programs Manager Kath Clark who gave a short speech thanking Michigan’s pig farmers for their continued generosity.

Other participating chefs included Robert Shipman, Jr. from The English Inn in Lansing; Joe Coudron from Bravo Restaurant in Kalamazoo; Jimmy Hill from Saffron Café in Coldwater; and Elizabeth Hughes, Dusty’s Cellar, Okemos.