The Food Network has Iron Chefs, but here in Utah, we have Iron Pigs. Suzy Johnson of North Ogden and her sous chef, Matt Olsen of South Weber, won the Iron Pig Championship Cook-Off in South Jordan on Sept. 7. They were awarded a small “iron” pig, and their names are engraved on large Fizzfest Iron Pig trophy as well. The Iron Pig cooking club founders Tom and Teresa Akagi organize contests throughout the year, where club members cooked and then judged each others’ dishes. The winners of those contests competed in this final cook-off, held during the Daybreak community’s annual FizzFest. Even the pouring rain didn’t deter them; the contest was moved indoors and everyone improvised a little.
Since I was one of the judges (along with Bryan O’Meara, owner of The Dodo and Porcupine Grill) I can say it was one of the best-tasting contests I’ve judged. But with so many creative and well-executed dishes, it was also hard to pick a winner.
This year’s Iron Pig theme was “fair food,” but with a creative twist. The cooks had two hours to create three different dishes — something savory, something sweet, and something made with the secret ingredient, soda pop. (After all, this WAS the Fizz Fest.)
“Carnival foods and fair foods can vary from the traditional to the exotic,” said Tom Akagi.”A popular food trend right now is hybrid foods—such as the doughnut and croissant mix of a cronut, or the ramen burger with a bun made of ramen noodles.”
I’ve been to the State Fair nearly every year for the past 20 years, and I have to admit that I rarely buy any food there. It’s mostly too high-calorie and too high-priced for me. But I remember riding a bus from Minneapolis to the Minnesota State Fair, and people on the bus told me they saved up their money so they could indulge in the fair food such as deep-fried cheese curds, deep-fried Snickers, and spaghetti on a stick. In fact, there were over 50 foods served on a stick at Minnesota’s fair. So yeah, a lot of people really do enjoy traditional “fair food.”
My favorite dish of the whole night was Sarah Molloy’s lobster “corn dog” which combined two quintessential fair treatments — deep-frying and serving on a stick. But it was the luxurious, perfectly cooked lobster that set it apart.
Winner Suzy Johnson served a Cowboy Sundae, featuring a base of sweet potato fries topped with pork and beans made with fresh peach puree, then a beer brat, and apple coleslaw. The savory sundae came with a root beer barbecue sauce. The root beer was cooked down to a syrup before being added to the sauce, Johnson said. “I just thought about mixing all the different flavors,” she said, when I asked how she came up with the Cowboy Sundae idea. She also served a Carousel Club Roll — a club sandwich rolled up as a wrap, and deep fried. Dessert was a Fresh Peach Surprise. “This is the second competition we’ve done together,” said Johnson of her partnership with Olsen. “I’ve done a few other competitions with other cooking groups too.”
– Cheesecake that was deep-fried and strung on a length of licorice to be worn around your neck while you ate it and walked around. To keep your clothes from getting greasy, contestant Josh Chase offered large bibs. Judge Bryan O’Meara tried it on for us.
– A refreshing ice cream made with orange soda, and served in the shell of an orange.
– Buffalo chicken and waffles
-Root beer-glazed popcorn.
– Cherry cola chipotle sauce on pulled pork sandwiches.
– Homemade potato chips topped with shaved beef, blue cheese and chopped tomatoes for eating nachos-style.
It was great food and great fun, and by the time the judges were done tasting, we did feel like Iron Pigs.