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Earlier this year, Sous Chef Melissa Meola of Marcella’s in the Short North, became the first woman ever to take top honors at the Ohio Pork Council’s Taste of Elegance cooking competition. Melissa’s outstanding pork recipes earned her the coveted Chef Par Excellence award and a trip to Napa to attend the National Pork Summit.

Contestants in the competition were tasked with creating three dishes, each showcasing a different cut of pork sourced from Ohio farms. Melissa’s culinary creations each represented a different style of cuisine.

When Melissa was growing up, her family often prepared Italian, German and classic American food. She drew from her Italian roots and experience in Italian restaurant kitchens as inspiration for her first dish: Porchetta. Melissa roasted pork with a black garlic and fennel stuffing and served it on gnocchi that she sautéed in lardo (pork kidney fat whipped into a butter-like consistency). She topped that with fried rapini – a potent and robust vegetable that looks like tiny broccoli florets with little leaves similar in texture to spinach.

For her second dish, Melissa opted for a charcuterie plate. She says that these labor-intensive offerings have become rare to find on restaurant menus, and it’s a trend she’d like to see make a comeback. Her charcuterie plate consisted of a pork terrine with cognac-macerated prunes and pistachios served with a watercress salad lightly dressed with lemon and olive oil.

No pork competition would be complete without a good plate of barbecue. Melissa’s third dish for the judges was a barbecue sampler: Cold-smoked pork tenderloin with pulled pork shoulder barbecued and served with cornbread and braised kale, collard and mustard greens.

Melissa is an esteemed member of the Cameron Mitchell team, and we are honored to have such a skilled chef representing our company. Congratulations from the entire Cameron Mitchell family!

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