Dominic Iannarelli, executive chef for Splash Seafood Bar & Grill in Des Moines, won both the professional panel and people’s choice culinary awards at the Iowa Restaurant Association’s Dine Iowa Grand Tasting Gala.  The competition was sponsored by the Iowa Beef Industry Council and the Soyfoods Council.  All chefs featured a beef petite tender entrée and a soft tofu side dish.  The chefs worked with Certified Angus Beef courtesy of Sysco of Iowa.

Chef Eric McDowell of the Prairie Meadows Race Track and Casino placed second in the competition and chef Zephaniah Leaton of Riverside Casino and Golf Resort placed third. All three chefs received cash prizes.

As part of the competition, eight Iowa chefs presented their original culinary creations in a blind tasting format. Each dish was judged on appearance; taste; tenderness, texture, and use of product; as well as overall creativity, and practicality. Bonus points were given for the innovative use of both the tofu and petite tender. 

That evening the chefs presented sample size portions of the same dishes to 300 food and wine lovers as part of the People’s Choice Culinary Competition of the Iowa Restaurant Association’s Dine Iowa Grand Tasting Gala at Prairie Meadows.  Each attendee cast their vote and the cash prizes were awarded at the end of the evening.

Iannarelli’s winning dish featured a sesame and porcini mushroom encrusted grilled petite tender with edamame pesto, roasted tofu and mushroom salad, and veal demi-glace sauce.  The side dish was a 100 percent vegan Caprese Salad Napoleon with Heirloom tomatoes, tofu buffalo mozzarella, balsamic reduction, and fried basil. The dish was paired and served with Clos Du Bois Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon courtesy of the competition’s exclusive wine sponsor Constellation Wines.

“Every year this competition is held to celebrate Iowa restaurant industry month and we are consistently awed by the culinary creativity of Iowa’s chefs,” says Jessica Dunker, president and CEO of the Iowa Restaurant Association. “The fact that chef Iannarelli’s dish netted top honors from both the professional judging panel and general public also shows that Iowa restaurant patrons are developing increasingly sophisticated and demanding pallets as well.”


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