Student team creates winning dish in meats conference competition

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- A four-student team from Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences recently finished first in the American Meat Science Association Reciprocal Meats Conference competition.

It was the University's initial entry into the annual contest. Team members included junior Food Science major Steve Bookbinder, of Weston, Fla., senior Animal Sciences majors Alyssa Dietrich, of Strausstown, and Kristen Stufft, of Lewistown, and recentĀ graduate in Animal Sciences Sarah Doyle, of Red Lion. They were coached by graduate student Amanda Gipe, of Merced, Calif., who is pursuing a doctoral degree in Animal Science.

Held in Fargo, N.D., the conference required each team to come up with a unique dish that consisted of at least 50 percent meat. The concoctions were judged on flavor of the product, marketing presentation and display, HACCP (hazard analysis and critical control points) plan, and food safety inspection.

The theme of the competition this year was Ethnic Foods, and the Penn State team developed a Vietnamese dish the students called "Chao Toms."

"It was so good it blew the other 10 teams' recipes out of the water," Gipe said. "The group has been working together on the product since April. They are a smart group of individuals and they would give anyone a run for their money."

The teams developed their products at their respective universities and then reheated them at the conference. During the reheating process, judges observed the students.

"Competition was stressful," Bookbinder said. "There were a lot of judges watching us at all times to make sure we were following food-safety practices and keeping food at the right temperatures."

Bookbinder was behind the idea for the Penn State team's product. "We found a recipe for a Vietnamese pork sausage wrapped around a piece of fresh sugar cane and immediately fell in love with it," he said. "I made this recipe before when I was cooking in New York City."

The team also had to set up a product show display, and participants of the Reciprocal Meats Conference were allowed to try the products that students developed. Dietrich contributed mostly to the marketing plan and display of the product.

"The judges felt our dish was innovative and unique," she explained. "Also, Vietnamese food recently has been considered 'trendy,' so I think the judges appreciated our ability to recognize food trends and create a dish that people would be willing to try."

Bookbinder believes the AMSA's Reciprocal Meats Conference is a great opportunity for undergraduate students to connect with meat-science professionals in both the industry and academia.

"To win this competition definitely has given Penn State more exposure at the national level in regard to meat science," he said. "We are looking forward to next year's conference to defend our title and again represent Penn State proudly."

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Last Updated June 29, 2012