If you think rural Midwestern farmers and their chef counterparts yield mostly down-home comfort food, think again. The Missouri Organic Association hosted its annual conference in Springfield, Missouri and the festivities included an Iron Chef competition. I was fortunate to be asked to serve as a judge. Never have I seen such creative efforts come from Missouri’s backroads bounty.
Eight chefs—two each from St. Louis, Kansas City, Springfield and Columbia—went head to head with two secret ingredients: pork and trout. Each chef was assigned an appetizer and an entrée, and was given access to loads of fresh field greens, veggies and fruits, herbs, artisanal breads and cheeses and Missouri wines to use as they pleased. What they came up with was pleasing, to say the least.
Among the surprises? A savory crepe stuffed with trout and mushroom from Chef Chris Dignan of Bleu Restaurant & Wine Bar in Columbia. Pork tenderloin with cream sauce and gnocchi from Justin McMillen of Sidney Street Café in St. Louis. Trout over fennel with pickled blood orange rind and crisp trout skin from Chef Max Watson of Remedy Food & Drink in Kansas City. Trout fish cake with lemon from Chef Daniel Stern of Mama Jean’s Market in Springfield.
Chef Walker Claridge of Columbia, Missouri’s Broadway Brewery & Restaurant took the Iron Chef title with his entrée of bacon-wrapped mushroom cap stuffed with sliced pork atop a layer of sweet potato puree. His appetizer was a trout salad with Elderberry wine-poached pears.
Sixteen small plates were a lot to take in, but I enjoyed every bite. Much of the fun came while watching the chefs chop, toss, sauté, blend and plate their creations on the massive stage. Thank goodness they weren’t required to prepare a dessert—but if that category is added next year I’ll gladly step up to eight more plates.
Missouri Organic Association Iron Chef Competitors:
Walker Claridge – Broadway Brewery
Chris Dignan – Bleu
St. Louis, MO:
Justin McMillen – Sidney Street Café
Marianne Moore – Dierbergs Culinary Event Center
Chadwick Isom – HyVee
Daniel Stern – Mama Jean’s
Kansas City, MO:
Michael Foust – The Farmhouse
Max Watson - Remedy