The Whole Hog: The 2017 Pork Summit is Here

by Lesley Jacobs Solmonson, Drinks Editor

Stephen Gerike leading a butchering demonstration, 2016

Stephen Gerike leading a butchering demonstration, 2016

Irma S. Rombauer, author of The Joy of Cooking, once said "A pig resembles a saint in that he is more honored after death than during his lifetime." Rombauer's statement was prescient. Although she died in 1962, she would have been pleased with pork's enduring popularity. In fact, according to a 2015 Volumetric Assessment of Pork in Foodservice, the other white meat is "the fastest growing protein in foodservice since 2011." And it's pork's continuing growth that gave birth to the National Pork Board's Pork Summit, now in its seventh year.

Held at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone  in St. Helena, California, the Summit gathers guest chefs, state and regional winners of the Taste of Elegance, and foodservice trade media for an edible, educational, full-immersion weekend. 

Sensory tasting session, 2016

Sensory tasting session, 2016

Building on Pork's Momentum

The Summit continues to build momentum for pork's growing popularity in the foodservice industry. Among some of the likely topics to be addressed are those put forth by the National Pork Board's website. These include:

  • American pork farmers are socially conscious and environmentally aware in their food production practices. American pork is sustainably raised without hormones or steroids and with an awareness of the animal' s well being.
  • Pork is convenient. It can be cooked quickly to its optimal temperature of 145 degrees, ensuring it's at its flavorful best. Education matters here as both guests and staff may be unfamiliar with new cooking recommendations. 
  • Pork is nutrient rich, full of vitamins, minerals, and proteins. 
  • The variety of pork cuts available is immensely diverse, ensuring its adaptability at every meal. 
  • Portion controlled cuts help keep costs down and profits up..
Chef Kris Morningstar in a demonstration session, 2016

Chef Kris Morningstar in a demonstration session, 2016

Farm to Fork

Along with these more business-centric ideas will be sessions that literally take participants from farm to fork. The first day will allow the guest chefs to demonstrate their signature cooking techniques. This year's chefs include Cosmo Goss of The Publican in Chicago, Justin Brunson of Old Major in Denver, Justin Carlisle of Ardent in Milwaukee, and Brittanny Anderson of Metzger in Richmond. Last year's presentations included everything from making a Pate Grand-mere to a Pork Adobo. 

Team butchering exercise, 2016

Team butchering exercise, 2016

Day Two promises a combination of education (Pork 101 , brining, and quality tasting) and hands-on experience that includes a team butchering exercise. The final day allows participants taste the fruits of their cooking labors in a pork market basket cooking exercise. 

The take-away from all this is of course to enhance one's knowledge of and appreciation for pork as a central foodservice ingredient. But perhaps the most valuable lesson comes from meeting like-minded professionals, learning their stories and viewpoints, and experiencing the camaraderie of shared passions. And, of course, porking out.