Cotes du Coeur Wine Society Chef Showdown in Dallas

Chef André Natera of The Fairmont Hotel

A battle royal raged at The Milestone Culinary Arts Center as chefs from Dallas and Fort Worth battled each other in a competition to make the best pork dish . Events were emceed by Jeffrey Yarbrough.

Jump for the joy of cooking competitions!

First on was Chef André Natera of the Fairmont Hotel in Dallas. He made Braised Pork Belly with Apples and a Celery Root Puree. He seared and then braised the pork. The braise was loaded with bay leaves, thyme, white wine and chicken stock which made a jus that was rich enough to be served as a sauce. In the demonstration we saw him sear the meat and put it in to braise. At that point magic occurred and a fully braised pork belly appeared through a secret door. The celery roots were (as he put it) ‘cooked to mush’ and then pureed. The apples were cooked sous vide (30 minutes at 185 degrees with salt and pepper and butter in the bag) making then soft and very juicy. The thing I can’t figure out is why this guy doesn’t have a show on TV. He’s a natural with a clear, accurate and engaging delivery.

Next battle went the other side of the Trinity to Chef Michael S. Thomson of Michael’s Cuisine in Fort Worth. He made Bacon Wrapped Pork Tenderloin With Roc Doc Rub and an Ancho Corn Cream Salsa. The recipe somewhat like this but the salsa is different. Michael advocates cooking pork medium rare so that when sliced the denter is warm and red. Fears of illness from undercooked pork, he says, are a vestige of an earlier era. The finished product was certainly tender with a texture like steak tartare.

We went back over to the east side of the Trinity River for Chef Salvatore Gisellu of Urban Crust in Plano. With the help of a ‘volunteer’ from the audience he made Pancetta Meat Balls with Sage Pesto and Vincotto Reduction. Toasted fennel seeds and a moderate amount of garlic went into the meatballs. The pesto combined Italian parsley, walnuts and nutmeg. The tasty results were passed around the appreciative crowd.

Finally, we crossed back across the river, this time to Arlington, for Brian Olenjack of Olenjack’s Grille. His dish was Braised Pork Butt with Pasta. He combined cumin-rubbed pork butt with mirepoix, jalapenos, vinegar and chicken stock and braised for 6 hours. After that time the pork is falling apart. He added not cream, but mascarpone to turn the thin jus into a rich creamy sauce and then dropped in cooked pasta. He says this is similar to, but not the same as, the preparation of goulash. In the demonstration he was able to complete the 6 hour braise within his allotted 10 minutes thanks to the same magic that helped so much earlier. One side note. We learned a useful Trivial Pursuit question: Which part of the pig does pork butt come from? It’s not where you might think, and not for the reasons you might think.

The four dishes were given to a panel of judges comprising Mike Hiller (Escapehatchdallas), Steve Doyle (Critics Guide) and Sharon Van Meter (Milestone Culinary Arts Center). Top honors went to Natera and Olenjack in a tie.

Wines for the evening were donated by Pogo’s and came from Charles and Charles in Washington State. This winery is a rising star led by an iconoclastic dude with the appearance of a heavy metal band’s lead singer and real winemaking talent. The 2009 Cabernet-Syrah was a rich, classy performance.