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Omaha restaurant captures 2nd IPPA Missouri River Valley TOE competition

Posted March 19, 2013

The Iowa Pork Producers Association’s 2nd annual Missouri River Valley Taste of Elegance competition was held at Iowa Western Community College in Council Bluffs yesterday and for the second consecutive year, the winning chef was from V. Mertz Restaurant in Omaha.

Chef Jacob Newton took Chef Par Excellence honors with a pork entrée he called Iowa Duroc Pork “Cheek to Cheek.” He earned $1,000 and a plaque from IPPA, as well as a trip to St. Helena, Calif., for the Pork Summit in late April.

It’s an honor to win and I’m really looking forward to attending the National Pork Summit this spring,” Newton said. “My executive chef won [this event} last year and he still talks about how great the [Pork Summit] trip was. The opportunities for V. Mertz through Taste of Elegance are exciting. It’s cool to expand on the V. Mertz name through local pork producers.”

Two other Nebraska chefs and an Iowa chef competed in this year’s event, which was hampered by weather.

“We were looking forward to having seven chefs compete this year. Unfortunately, a snow storm caused us to reschedule and only four of our chefs were able to participate,” said IPPA Marketing and Programs Director Kelsey Sutter. “We still had a nice crowd show up, though, and as it turns out, the judges still had a hard time selecting a winner as all four chefs came very close in the scoring.”

Second place and the title of Superior Chef went to Chef John Rea of M’s Pub in Omaha. Rea also took home the People’s Choice Award for his “Bacon Wrapped Milk Braised Pork Roulade with Balsamic Macerated Tart Cherries and Tellagio Mornay.” IPPA presented Rea with $500 and a plaque. He also earned $250 for the People’s Choice Award.

Chef Kristen Papp of the Hilton Garden in Council Bluffs was named Premier Chef. She prepared “Spinach and Chorizo Stuffed Pork Loin” and earned $250 and a plaque.

The Iowa Western C.C. team that won IPPA’s recent Student Taste of Elegance contest in Ankeny attended as special guests and prepared its winning entrée for the reception.

Approximately 80 invited guests attended the evening reception, sampled each chef’s entrée and determined the People’s Choice Award winner.

The contest was open to chefs from states along the Missouri River. Each chef was required to use a fresh pork cut in an original entrée. The winning pork dishes were selected on the basis of taste, appearance and originality by a panel of judges.

“It turned out to be a very nice event and we look forward to an even better competition next year,” Sutter said.

The Taste of Elegance is a Pork Checkoff-funded culinary competition designed to inspire innovative and exciting ways to menu pork.

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