PorkSummit_2014_0903 copyThe 4th annual Pork Summit in St. Helena, CA was a feast for mind and stomach. Guests spent the weekend learning all about pork – from butchery and salumi to beverage pairings and new pork nomenclature. We spoke to winners of state and regional Taste of Elegance competitions about their experiences during the exclusive educational weekend.

Matthew Vawter, Chef de Cuisine at Fruition Restaurant in Denver, CO

His weekend highlight: the Farmstead dinner. “The food was great, I got to meet new restaurant people, and had great conversations with other chefs and food writers. Can’t really ask for a better place to enjoy an outdoor cocktail hour eating cured meats and other pork.” On learning about the new nomenclature: “I’ve served pork chops for the last fifteen years. To be honest, it never really crossed my mind that we have ribeye steaks, T-bones, rack of lamb, porterhouse, etc., but we’ve always just had pork chops. Stephen’s discussion on the change in terminology left me wondering, why does everyone just call them pork chops?”

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 Todd McDunn, Chef and Resident Director of Foodservice at Scotts Miracle-Gro Campus in Warren, OH – two-time Pork Summit attendee

On butchering a whole hog: “I learned to butcher a whole hog during my first Pork Summit in 2011, and I’m still working on being as good as Stephan Gerike! During the Market Basket competition, I chose to work with the pig’s trotter because I had never stuffed a whole one before and wanted to learn. With a little help from Chef Tony Incontro we made an Italian-style Zampone – it turned out very nice.” His weekend highlight and key takeaway: “Definitely hanging out with Bruce Aidells, talking pork at the wonderful dinner at Farmstead! What a beautiful California night it was, sipping wine outside with plenty of great food and the wisps of smoke in the air from a roasting whole hog and grilling sausages. My number one key takeaway has to be the new recognition of pork names we will see with the nomenclature updates.” On coming again: “I would be the first one on the bus!”

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Ryan Hembree, Chef at Trail Ridge Retirement Community in Sioux Falls, SD – two-time Pork Summit attendee

On his Market Basket experience: “I spent most of my time in the outdoor cooking area. I split a head and roasted it in the wood-fired oven, smoked a whole leg, and combination cooked a belly with ribs in the smoker and then grilled them. I was on a team led by Chef Jonathan Waxman and we decided to use the richness of the belly and multiple cuts from both the head and the leg in our dishes.” On learning how to break down a fresh pork leg: “I was excited to be reminded of all the cuts available from breaking down a fresh pork leg into separate muscles. I am currently using leg cutlets, making a mini pit ham and pork pastrami in-house. I am finding some really great ways to utilize the other muscles – the top round is good for marinating and grilling and makes a great roast as well; the eye of round for grilling and stir frying. I’ve also had good luck brining a bottom round as an alternative for boneless chops.” On his Pork Summit experience: “The wealth of knowledge that Pork Summit provides is almost overwhelming. The chef demos, the butchery, and the networking with fellow chefs all in the beautiful setting of Napa Valley was truly an amazing experience.”

Nate Weida, Sous Chef at Savory Grille in Macungie, PA – two-time Pork Summit attendee

On his Pork Summit experience: “To name any one favorite highlight from the weekend would be unfair. From Pork 101 with Stephen Gerike to beer tasting and pairing with Jared Rouben, the presentations were not only educational, but also motivating – especially Tony Incontro, who shared his knowledge of curing pork. It’s an amazing experience that every chef who gives a damn about the pig should experience. This was my second Pork Summit and it was just as good, if not better, than the first. I would attend every year if permitted.”

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Michael Priola, Chef at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Tampa, FL

On the Market Basket exercise: “I used pork tongue, because I wanted to cook a part of the pig that is used less often than other parts. Working with Chef Jose Enrique, we decided to incorporate the brined and smoked tongue into a chilaquiles dish.” On his Pork Summit experience: “Picking a favorite part is hard, because it was all very wonderful – from the warm welcome to each activity. But my key takeaway was the use of pig’s blood by Brad Farmerie to make a Blood Pudding Terrine. I would definitely enjoy the chance to come again.”