Butter, bacon and beef at the Expo

Brady Walker, a first-year culinary arts student at Iowa Central Community College, may have learned a lesson about what happens when you make suggestions.

You get taken seriously and as a result, he got to spend the day at the Central Iowa Food and Beverage Expo talking to guests in the Career Education Building – dressed as a cow.

“I said, ‘Oh, we should do a cow costume,'” he said. “They did.”

Reactions to his Holstein outfit varied a bit.

“They just moo back,” he said. “They pull my tail too.”

While the cow outfit was tongue in cheek, he still had a serious purpose. He was helping to promote locally produced dairy products and getting visitors to try some home-churned butter.

He was also encouraging them to try some of the cheesecake samples, one made with organic ingredients, the other with non-organic.

“The organic has more flavor,” he said.

Nearby, fellow student Glenda Tomlinson, of Callender, was working with the tiny wonder that is the quail egg. She was cooking them sunny side up after working carefully with a small knife to open the shell; they don’t crack open the way a chicken egg does.

“It’s harder to work with but the yolks are smoother,” she said.

For the hard boiled version, they can be done in two to three minutes, she said. A chicken egg usually takes a lot longer than that.

One of the events Expo events that continues to grow in popularity is the cooking contest for area high school culinary arts students.

Jessie Parker, the culinary arts instructor at Fort Dodge High School, was watching her four-person team prepare a pork tenderloin with a starch, vegetable and sauce.

They have an hour and no, unlike cooking competition TV shows, nothing is done to add to the pressure.

“It’s enough as it is,” she said.

Even if her students don’t pursue a career in the culinary arts, they still come away with valuable lessons.

“They really start to appreciate the ingredients and fresh food,” she said.

One of Parker’s students, Abee Armstrong, is going onto a career in the culinary arts. She will be attending the Arts Institute in Vancouver, British Columbia. She said she will specialize in baking and pastry.

“The class made me really want to go,” she said.

Michael Hirst, director of the Iowa Central culinary arts program, said that this year, the Expo has expanded the amount of displays that his students are involved in.

In addition, they’ve gotten their hands – and feet – dirty.

“They’ve gone out onto the farms,” he said of their search for locally produced food items to feature.

“We want to reduce the mileage of the food we’re using,” he said. “We try to support and promote Iowa-produced food.”

Proceeds from the food Expo go towards his freshman student’s annual trip to the National Restaurant Association trade show in Chicago.

They spend five days there touring restaurants and dining in them, attending the show and learning about the food and hospitality business.

“It’s that big wide eye moment for my students,” he said.

In addition, soup and sandwiches prepared by the students was available, cooking demonstrations offered and about a dozen local vendors offered their wares.

Hirst was going to demonstrate some savory and sweet uses for pumpkin.

“I’m going to make some mess and noise,” he said.