At the center of the US Foods-sponsored event: the annual Gold Fork contest, in which six chefs work with a selection of mystery ingredients to produce a winning meal. I was one of the judges again this year, and - spoiler alert - you're looking at the winner. More after the jump.
The contest was emceed by chef and radio personality Jasper Mirabile Jr., of Jasper's Restaurant, and Mike Elder, the TV cake-decorating wizard. The competing chefs were Mike Clough of Accurso's Italian Restaurant; Hope Dillon of Vivalore Restaurant; Tate Roberts of EBT Restaurant; Vincent Paredes of the MetropolitanKC restaurant in the downtown Marriott; Jason Wiggin of the InterContinental Hotel Kansas City; and the 2012 Gold Fork Award winner, Charles D'Ablaing, of Chaz on the Plaza in the Raphael Hotel.
The ingredients included bacon, lentils, 9 ounces of teres major beefsteak, potatoes, cabbage, carrots and spinach. Within the time limit, each chef had to prepare a complete meal.
It was a daunting task, but everyone was up to it, and I tasted six sophisticated dinners (and, in one case, an additional course: a tiny carrot creme brulee). Judging with me were Emily Farris, culinary blogger and Central Standard Friday co-panelist, David Hayden, author-blogger and hospitality-industry consultant. In the end, we didn't really argue about it too much before we chose Jason Wiggin.
For Wiggin, the victory was particularly sweet. The chef's resume includes stints at the Phillips Hotel, Aladdin Hotel and the Raphael, and he left Kansas City early last year to take a position in California. He was wooed back to KC by the InterContinental Hotel Kansas City to take over duties as executive chef five months ago.
"It felt really good to be the winner and back in Kansas City," he told me. "It was even better to be competing with chefs I know and respect. We had a blast."
Wiggin's winning dish featured an amuse bouche of cumin and paprika-dusted pork belly, served with braised cabbage and a creamy, buttery reduction of wine and onions. His main course was grilled beef, lightly dappled with a green-peppercorn-and-wine reduction, served on a bed of cheesy "dauphinoise" potatoes with a spinach-and-caramelized-onion emulsion. I'd happily eat it again today.