Cooking Up Signature Dishes at the State Fair

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Cooking Up Signature Dishes at the State Fair

Indiana Grown challenge: make your best recipe with at least three Hoosier-grown ingredients

(INDIANAPOLIS) - Indiana's delegation to the World Food Championships in October has been warming up on the other side of the judges' table, at the State Fair.

For the last four years, the Indiana State Department of Agriculture's Indiana Grown Initiative has invited Hoosiers to match recipes in the agency's own twist on "Iron Chef." Competitors can bring in any dish they want -- as long as it incorporates at least three Indiana-grown ingredients.

Lorrie Wilson of North Salem startled a panel of three Indianapolis chefs and bakers and took first prize with a basketball-size apple pie, dubbed "Mile High Caramel Apple Pecan Pie. Circle City Sweets' Cindy Hawkins says she thought it was a cake or a meringue at first, before learning the piecrust really was lifted into a six-inch-high dome by 18 apples in the recipe.

Creativity and taste matter, but Hawkins says she looks for a balance of ingredients and flavors when judging. Erin Gillum with Spoke and Steele says she tries to look behind the final product to assess whether it's clear what the cook was trying to accomplish.

The competition has looser judging standards than the one where Hawkins and Gillumw will compete in October. The World Championships have a strict judging scale based on execution, appearance and taste. Most significantly, the championships are divided into categories, from pastries to burgers to sandwiches, while the eight entries in the Indiana Grown competition have free rein to do whatever they want, with entrees, desserts and appetizers all competing against each other.

Indiana Grown entrants can also take their time getting the dish just right at home. The World Championships give chefs a one-hour time limit. Gillum says she hasn't even started a practice run of a recipe yet -- she's still brainstorming what's achievable within the time limit and with ingredients that will be available away from home.

Two more of Indiana's competitors in the championships judged a barbecue competition at the fair last week.

L to R: Chefs Erin Gillum, Ben Hardy and Cindy Hawkins sample an entry in the Indiana Grown "Culinary Creations" competition. (Photo: Eric Berman/WIBC)

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