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Winners Announced: Professional Chefs Impress Judges with Lake Herring

Chef Ron Bohnert, executive chef of Danny's Bar and Grill at the Stoneridge Golf Club in Stillwater Minn., was the $1000 champion of Tuesday's professional chef competition, which was part of a daylong Salute to Lake Superior Sustainable Fisheries in Minneapolis, Minn., hosted by the University of Minnesota Sea Grant Program. Definitely a culinary artist, Chef Ron swept the American Culinary Federation (ACF)-sanctioned competition with his devastatingly delicious "Lake Superior Bluefin Herring," a black pepper potato encrusted entrée dressed with caviar créme fraiche.

"Chef Ron's entrée was phenomenal," said lead judge Don Miller, executive chef at the University of Notre Dame. "He really had a command of the fish."

Chef Ron is serving his gold-medal entrée at Danny's Bar and Grill through November 20. This is the first time lake herring has been on his menu.

In front of three ACF judges and Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl, Minnesota Monthly's food critic, Chef Paul Lynch of Fire Lake Grill House created a mouth-watering fennel stuffed lake herring with artichoke barigoule. His creativity earned him a silver medal, $750 and praise from the judges because he clearly understood how to balance the lake herring's taste profile with other ingredients.

Eric Baker, executive chef of Minneapolis's Blue Water Grill, and Victor Rivas, executive chef at the Cargill Corporate World Headquarters/Sodexo, tied for third place and earned enough points for ACF silver medals. At the public portion of the Salute to Lake Superior Sustainable Fisheries, guests were lined up two deep at times for a taste of Chef Eric's panko crushed herring with mango-herring roe sweet and sour sauce. Chef Rivas won accolades for dusting lake herring with wild rice flour, sautéing it, and serving it with lavender-infused vegetables and a black currant reduction.

"I'm amazed by what the chefs were able to do, essentially on their own, without ovens or a kitchen," said Jeff Gunderson, director of Minnesota Sea Grant. "Then to turn around and provide samples for about 250 people ... well ... the chefs were incredible. I knew that Lake Superior's lake herring were great eating but these chefs made lake herring into truly exceptional menu items."

Judge Miller said, "I was so impressed with this event and how much I learned about freshwater fisheries by talking with Sea Grant staff and the chefs. The chefs were tentative but curious about working with lake herring prior to the competition but they did an outstanding job. Given what I've learned, I'm working on purchasing several thousand pounds of lake herring to serve at the University of Notre Dame."

Chefs Patrick Gonzales, Penny Miller, Scott Pampuch, Chad Rasmussen, and Robert Wohlfeil accumulated enough points at the Salute to earn bronze medals from the ACF judges, who flew for the event from Florida, Indiana, and Illinois.

Posted on November 4, 2011


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