Each year in June, Nicholas & Company -- the local, 70-year-old food service company -- hosts the annual Nicholas Food Show for the food and restaurant industry. Included in the festivities is a chef's cookoff, where four local chef teams throw down to create fabulous dishes utilizing a secret ingredient. This year, as in the past, I was honored to be selected as one of the cookoff judges, a panel that also including Salt Lake Magazine's Mary Malouf and Squatters' Joe Lambert.
Yesterday's competition featured Zucca Trattoria chef Elio Scanu, the Grand America's Phillip Yates, Jodie Rogers from Deer Valley Resort, and Caffe Niche chefs Ethan Lappe and Adrian Alvarado. As in past years, they were ably assisted by culinary students from around the region enrolled in programs at Salt Lake Community College, Art Institute of Salt Lake, Utah Valley University and the Weber Basin culinary arts.
Following introductions by Fox 13's Big Buddha, the secret ingredient was unveiled: an entire side of pig from Ballard Farms Pork. Each team team cooked four different dishes incorporating pork into all of them. The dishes we each judged for presentation, taste and originality.
Here are some images from the event. Special thanks to my lovely wife, Faith, for the excellent photography.
Pork kufta with pita and tzatziki
Pork belly tostada
Nouveau corn dog, NOLA style
Korean-style grilled pork with cashew peanut sauce and spring roll
Rosemary pork tenderloin medallions with micro salad and roasted golden beets
Pork tamale with pico de gallo, charred green onions and "pear" of avocado
Pork ragu with mascarpone and rosemary on polenta with Grana Padano
Pork tenderloin "on the bone" with potatoes and mushrooms
Pinchos morunos - pork tenderloin skewers with papaya-jicama sauce
Pulled pork tostada with avocado-mango salsa and queso
Bacon-wrapped, cranberry-stuffed pork loin with quinoa
Minced pork croquette with peach sauce
Deer Valley Resort
Greek-style rare pork on pita with pomegranate-molassesdrizzle
"Surf & turf" - shrimp, salad, beets and pork
Lemon and olive oil poached pork tenderloin
Pork tenderloin stacked with truffled potato and St. Andre cheese
This year's chef competition was the closest ever. When all the votes were counted a slim one-half point separated the winner from second place. There truly were no losers. Each team stunned me, the other judges, and the audience with their skill and creativity. But, when the kitchen tongs and knives were put away, the winner of the 2011 Nicholas & Company Chef's Cook-off was Elio Scanu and Zucca Trattoria.
Thanks to all the participants and student helpers.