Stephan Hesse Wins Checkoff’s National Taste of Elegance Contest

Tuesday, Jun 30, 2009 – Stephan Hesse, executive chef of The Oak Grill in Minneapolis, Minn., won top honors in the 20th annual national Taste of Elegance™ contest June 29 in Baltimore, Md.  The competition, sponsored by the Pork Checkoff, featured 29 chefs, all winners of state and regional Taste of Elegance contests.

Hesse earned Chef Par Excellence honors with his winning entrée of Curry Pork Belly and Coconut Panna Cotta and a check for $5,000.

“The national Taste of Elegance contest brought some of the nation’s best chefs together to share their talent using pork,” said Tim Bierman, a pork producer from Iowa and National Pork Board member.  “By reaching chefs through Checkoff programs like this, the goal is to increase pork items on menus.”

In the national contest, competing chefs from Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin created original pork entrees that were judged for taste, appearance and originality.  The Taste of Elegance contest was created to encourage chefs to use pork more frequently in creative, non-traditional ways.

Other chefs that received honors at the contest include Stephen Marshall of Medici in Las Vegas, Nev., who earned the Superior Chef Award and $2,000 with his Spiced Pork Belly and Mark Brown of The River Club in Suwanne, Ga., who earned the Premium Chef Award and $1,000 with his Piedmont Pork.  The other five finalists in the 2009 National Taste of Elegance contest were: Rudy Garza of True Flavors Culinary Planners in San Antonio, Texas; Eddie Tancredi of Rosendales in Columbus, Ohio; James Abbott of Fusions Catering in Sioux Falls, S.D.; Robert Iannaccone of Brookside Country Club in Macungie, Pa. and Joel Cooper of Wolfgang Puck Catering at the University of Chicago in Chicago, Ill.

New this year was Media Choice award. The national foodservice media in attendance presented this award to Stephen Marshall.

Foppiano Wines of Healdsburg, Ca. presented Julia Lopez of ALO in Dallas, Texas with their wine pairing award and John Monnich of Silkwood Wines in Modest, Ca. presented Eddie Tancredi with their wine pairing award.

Again this year was the opportunity for the competing chefs to attend an abridged version of Pork 101, a Checkoff-funded short course that focuses on pork quality, consistency and value.

“The chefs were able to view a hog carcass being broken down into different cuts,” said Bierman.  “These chefs are the trendsetters of the food industry, and reaching out to them through a seminar like this is part of our overall effort to increase pork demand.”

Judges for this year’s event included:

Marc Orfaly of Pigalle; Boston, Mass.
Deb Paquette of Zola; Nashville, Tenn.
Kent Rathbun of Abacus; Dallas, Texas
Joseph Royer of Saturn Grill; Oklahoma City, Okla.
Charlie Torgerson of Famous Dave’s; Minneapolis, Minn.
Tyler Wiard of Elway’s; Denver, Colo.

The Checkoff partnered with Cargill, featuring Sysco Corporation’s premium White Marble Farms in providing pork for the competition.  In addition to sponsoring the national event, Cargill also sponsored 23 state and regional Taste of Elegance contests by providing $500 and pork at each event.  Cargill also provided all participating chefs Diamond Crystal Kosher salt and Peter’s chocolates.

Other cosponsors for the Checkoff-funded national Taste of Elegance event were Baltimore Renaissance Harborplace Hotel of Baltimore, Chefwear®, Petite Sirah I Love You wines and Bauscher, Inc.

Note to media:  A complete list of contestant follows. Pork producers are available to interview about this story.

James Abbott
Fusions Catering
Sioux Falls, SD
Thai Style Pork

Jeff Bane, CEC
The Chef’s Academy
Indianapolis, IN
Butter Scotched Pork

Mark Brown, CEC
The River Club
Suwanee, GA
Piedmont Pork

Michael Caudill
The Duquesne Club
Pittsburgh, PA
All American Ball Park Pork

Ben Clay
Les Bourgeois
Rocheport, MO
Vignole Braised Pork Osso Bucco with Chinese Black Rice, Cayote Squash, Five Spiced Pigs and Coriander Salad

Joel C. Cooper
Wolfgang Puck Catering at the University of Chicago
Chicago, IL
Porkloin stuffed with Gorgonzola Dolce and Medjoul Dates Cooked Sous Vide
Creamed leaves of brussel sprouts, summer truffle & shaved apple

Payton Curry
Scottsdale, AZ
Braised White Marble Farms Pork Belly, Mayas Farm Micro Arugula, Lardo Wrapped Charles Okui Strawberries, Toasted Pistachios, Tuscan Olive oil

Chris Douglass
Ashmont Grill
Dorchester, MA
Slow Roasted Pork Belly w/Apple Slaw & Cider Glaze

Keith Falco
Vivace/Denver Renaissance
Denver, CO
Guinness Braised Pork Butt

Hyang-Mi Frost
Duquesne Club
Pittsburgh, PA
Duo of Pork Loin with Braised Neck Bone

Robert Gamble
Janesville Country Club
Janesville, WI
Yucatan Braised Pork

Rudy Bazan Garza II
True Flavors Culinary Planners
San Antonio, TX
Burnt Orange Glazed Pork Crepinette, Panchetta Crusted Potato
Apple Tartlett, Fennel, Onion and Apple Marmalade, Baby Arugula and Frizee Salad, Applewood Smoked Bacon Viniagrette, El Presidente Traditional Demi De Cochon, Bavarian Bock and Whole Grain Mustard Cream Sauce & Bacon Stained Glass

Jason Gomez
Isle of Capri Casino
Chile Spiced Pork Cheek Squash Blossom, Pumpkin Seed Tempura
Rhubarb Gastrique and Arugula & Prosciutto Salad

Stephan Hesse
The Oak Grill
Minneapolis, MN
Curry Pork Belly & Coconut Panna Cotta

Robert J. Iannaccone
Brookside Country Club
Macungie, PA
Baby Back Confit and Truffle Stuffed Pork Loin-Sauce Perigueux
Sweet Potato Gratin w/Pork Belly-Zucchini “Carbonaro”

Andrew Little
The Sheppard Mansion
Hanover, PA
Rillette of Rettland Farms’ Berkshire Pork With glazed ‘confit’ of Yukon golden potato, morel mushrooms, warmed frisee lettuce, English pea sauce

Julia A. Lopez
Dallas, TX
Orange Maple Glazed Pork

Stephen Marshall
Las Vegas, NV
Spiced Pork Belly
Fresh hearts of palm cannelloini
Braised leeks and apple glaze

Peter Olsacher
Bahama Breeze
Orlando, FL
Sugarcane Skewered Slow Cooked Ham Roast with Sweet Soy Glaze

Jim Phillips
Barona Resort and Casino
Lakeside, CA
Chop en Crepinette & “Lattice Pie”

Andrew N Racin
Eastland Café
Nashville, TN
Flyte of Pork

Lane Rosenberry
The Lodge at Wildnerness Ridge
Lincoln, NE
Pecan Crusted Pork Rib Eye, Ham-Hock Braised Collard Greens
Rosemary Potato Puree, Pine Nut-Bacon Brown Butter & Asiago Shavings

Haley Lynn Silhacek
Ferrari’s Restorante
Cedar Falls, IA
Spice Rubbed Pork Loin w/a Cider, Bourbon Mustard Sauce
Grilled Potato Napolean layered with Herbed Goat Cheese and Warm Oregano Vinaigrette accompanied by Candied Carrots

Chris Stroup
Renaissance St. Louis Hotel
St. Louis, MO
Pork Chop with House-Made Bacon
Heirloom Apple and Sweet Potato Tarte Tatin with Missouri Goat Cheese

Eddie Tancredi
Columbus, OH
Pan Roasted White Marble Farms Pork Loin
BBQ Glazed Pork Belly, White Bean Cassoulet, Sweet Potato Puree
House Made Pork Rinds, Bacon Foam and Natural Pork Jus

Joshua Valentine
The Coach House Restaurant
Oklahoma City, OK
Pork Belly Rillettes with Pork and Apple Ravioli

Todd Van Wieren, CEC
Boatwerks Waterfront Restaurant
Holland, MI
“Fusion” Trio

Justin Woo
The Oak Room at the Intercontinental Hotel
Kansas City, MO
Pork Cheek with Spicy Pork Ravioli
Truffle Reduction, Bulls Blood and Brussels Sprouts

Robert Young
Spirit Mountain Casino
Grand Ronde, OR
Espresso & Pinenut Encrusted Pork Chop
Served with White Chocolate – Chipotle Saucea and Balsamic Fig Syrup

The National Pork Board has responsibility for Pork Checkoff-funded research, promotion and consumer information projects and for communicating with pork producers and the public. The Pork Checkoff funds national and state programs in consumer education and marketing, retail and foodservice marketing, export market promotion, production improvement, science and technology, swine health, pork safety, and environmental management and sustainability. For the past half century, the U.S. pork industry has delivered on its commitment to sustainable production and has made significant strides in reducing the environmental impact of pig farming. Through a legislative national Pork Checkoff, pork producers invest $0.40 for each $100 value of hogs sold. Importers of pork products contribute a like amount, based on a formula. For information on Checkoff-funded programs, pork producers can call the Pork Checkoff Service Center at (800) 456-7675 or visit