On Thursday, Feb. 16, chefs from all over the state gathered at the Lansing Center to compete in the Michigan Taste of Elegance. MSU executive chef Eric Batten received top honors at the event, earning the Chef Par Excellence title and the People’s Choice Award for his original pork entrée.
Held in conjunction with the Michigan Pork Symposium, this year’s competition featured 12 chefs, showcasing their culinary skills and crafting a unique dish utilizing a cut of pork.
Each state holds a Taste of Elegance competition, and winners receive $1,000 as well as a trip to California to attend the 2017 Pork Summit held at the Culinary Institute of America. The Chef Par Excellence also helps judge the state competition the following year. Batten won the competition in 2015 and came back to judge last year. The recent event in February was his first year back, so he was surprised and honored to take home the title once again.
“The competition gets fiercer every year,” Batten emphasized. “You learn a lot from other competitors and at the Summit in California, so I’m grateful for the opportunity to be in that environment once again. My wife and I are going to take some extra time and make a vacation out of it; I love it out there, and it served as a great motivator to win the Taste of Elegance!”
This year’s judges were Neel Sahni, the foodservice marketing manager for the National Pork Board; Paul Adams, a chef from Hawkshead Restaurant in South Haven; and Gordon Wenk, chief deputy director of the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. During the competition, the chefs' dishes are also displayed, and spectators vote on the most aesthetically pleasing dish.
MSU was well represented this year, with corporate chef Kurt Kwiatkowski taking second place with his grilled BBQ pork chop steak, paired with collard greens, creamy cheese grits and house BBQ sauce.