At the Zest Fest with Lisa Wright

I have spent the entire week working on recipe development. I volunteered to participate in the Pace Recipe Contest for this year’s Zest Fest, held in Ft. Worth on the 11-13 of September. Every year the CSFTW and the Tarrant County College Culinary Arts Program compete against one another on the stage at the Zest Fest. Previous years it’s been a salsa contest and the CSFTW has won both years. This year it was a contest to see who could create a recipe using Pace Salsa Verde. A few of us got together with Chef Kurima to brainstorm recipe ideas. I brought in Korean Barbeque with Salsa Verde Slaw served on a fried wonton, Lisa Wright brought pesto and Ray brought some homemade pasta. After a lot of discussion and tasting the idea for a pasta dish using the pesto won, primarily because the Pace website did not show any recipes for an Italian twist on the salsa verde, however there was a vinaigrette like the one in my slaw and marinade. We planned to get together Sunday morning, the day of the contest, and make the final recipe. We were all busy Saturday night trying to think of creative plating ideas and Annie Lebonati came up with one using the idea of tacos but instead of a tortilla shell she used habanero jack cheese in the form of a cheese crisp. The pasta with the green pesto then resembled lettuce. We decided to use some sauteed julienned peppers for color and taste and a grilled shrimp on top. We spent Sunday morning making all the components, made a couple test examples which tasted and looked very nice, then set off for the Zest Fest. Our team and the TCC team made the recipes for the judges who included a TV weather woman, (Rebecca Miller) and the director of the Central Market cooking school. Jon Bonnell tasted the food but could not be judge due to his status as one of our instructors. Sadly, we lost by 1 point. The TCC students made a crepe dish with different fruits and sauces so I guess the judges had a sweet tooth.
Who knows? But, Jon Bonnell ate the entire “taco” and said he’d put in on the menu at Bonnell’s (his famous restaurant) so I don’t feel so bad. All in all, good experience and good practice for recipe development (and a LOT of work).
After spending all day cooking and running around I still had class from 3-8 that evening. I was pretty tired when class started and knew that we had Chef Gwin Grimes for our instructor. I’ve been looking forward to having her as an instructor since school started last year. I buy bread from her Artisan Baking Company as often as I can and I think she is very talented, creative, and plain nice. I’ve taken two classes she’s taught at Central Market as well. Our class focused on recipe development and how to write professional recipes. We were given written materials and good information on recipe development and then an assignment. It was like mystery basket all over again! We drew slips of paper with various ingredients and I drew tilapia.
My assignment was to create a recipe for an upscale fish house opening in Ft. Worth. We had one hour to complete the dish and write up the recipe. The next part of the assignment involved drawing one of the recipes the other students developed and making that recipe.
I made a tilapia tostada with creole aioli and smoked sausage cream sauce. It was pretty successful, a little too much dressing, but tasty. I drew Eric’s dish, a cheeseburger and fries.
No problem with that and it tasted alright. I was so glad when class was over and I could go home and rest!

The Zest Fest entry for the Pace Salsa Verde Challenge