Chef Owen Maass of Cincinnati's Cumin Eclectic Cuisine swept the Ohio Pork Producers Council's Taste of Elegance chef competition on Feb. 7 at the Capital Club in Columbus, earning both the People's Choice and the coveted Chef Par Excellence awards. Jonathan Bennett, Executive Chef/Partner of Moxie, the Restaurant in Cleveland, was named Superior Chef while William "Bill" Glover, Executive Chef/Owner of Sage American Bistro in Columbus was selected Premier Chef.
Unlike previous years in which each chef prepared a single dish, this year each of the three chefs prepared three-course tastings. Judging the event were Joe Crea, Food and Restaurant Editor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer; Jeffrey Matthews, blogger of adorkandhispork.com in Cincinnati; 2011 Chef Par Excellence winner and Food Service Manager of Scotts Miracle-Gro Campus Todd McDunn and Michael Sanson, Editor of Restaurant Hospitality Magazine. Sanson also acted as the evening's emcee, presenting the awards as well as tokens of appreciation to the event's sponsors.
This year marks the first time that participating chefs opted to pool the award monies, splitting it equally among themselves.
In keeping with the its tradition, A Taste of Elegance's evening began with guests receiving white gloves and a pork chop. After sampling assorted cheeses and appetizers, they were invited to taste samples from each of the chef's three-course menus. Soy desserts were supplied by the Ohio Soybean Council. A selection of Ohio wines were offered by Ohio Grape Industries.
The evening provides a unique opportunity for Ohio farmers to mingle with chefs who have prepared the fruit of their efforts - pork - in unique and exciting ways. Although many farmers have spent their lives raising pigs, few have had the opportunity to dine on what may be considered culinary delicacies, like tail or cheek.
Pork chops as well as the pork used by each of the chefs was donated by the J.H. Routh Packing Company in Sandusky.
Event sponsors included Ohio Pork Producers Council, Ohio Soybean Council, The J. H. Routh Packing Company, Farm Credit Services of Mid-America, the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation and United Producers.