MOUNT VERNON — The American Countryside was the focus of the 2011 Culinary Affair with Pork Cook-off. Sponsored by the Northeast Ohio Pork Producers, the event was held at the Knox County Career Center Feb. 17, and included budding chefs from Wayne County Career Center and Normandy High School as well as KCCC.
Each student had to submit an original pork recipe with a menu that included that pork recipe. They were then judged on creativity, whether the recipe was written correctly and how it fit in with the menu; they had to balance their menu. Three different chefs judged the menus. Those scores were averaged and the top 10 were chosen for the cook-off, with the menu being dictated by the judges. That menu included spinach salad with warm bacon vinaigrette, burgundy pork tenderloin, barley-stuffed tomato, southern country biscuits and shortbread for dessert.
The cook-off judges were all certified chefs from, respectively, Wooster Country Club, University of Akron, Glendora Nursing Home, Smuckers Corp., American Vending Institute and Genesis Party Center. They watched each step of the food preparation process, and contestants were rated on team organization, accuracy in following recipes, grooming, clean up, safety and sanitation, the finished food product and its presentation.
KCCC chef and catering student Kyle Olson and his cooking partner Kelly Brown came in second in the competition. Carley Heldenbrand and Olivia Jeffers, also from KCCC, placed in the top 10. Wayne CCC students took first, third, fourth and fifth honors.
Kyle said this was his first pork cook-off, and it was also the first time he prepared Burgundy Pork Tenderloin. He admitted that pork is not his very favorite food, but he doesn’t mind working with pork.
“It’s a good medium to work with,” he said. “It’s very easy to handle, and easy to cut up and dress. That makes it a little easier.”
Kyle likes the chef and catering program because it gives him me the chance to experience what he is going to be doing after high school: He hopes to own his own restaurant some day.
Kyle’s instructor, Doreen Bercaw, said she appreciates the Pork Producers’ sponsorship of the cook-off.
“Anytime anyone does anything for the betterment of the kids and their education, I just love it,” she said. “They don’t have to do this. But they see the need and you saw the kids’ faces — It’s awesome. Even the ones who didn’t win learned huge amounts. I’m just thankful for anyone who can contribute. It’s a business decision to support the education of kids. We really, really appreciate that.”