By Dave Stewart
When it comes to Island pork, The Kitchen Witch in New London is a cut above the rest.
Geoff and Debbie Crowther, the owners and chefs at the restaurant, were visibly emotional Wednesday when they were crowned with the culinary title Best Porktoberfest Chef at a press conference in Charlottetown.
It was an event to signal the end of the inaugural P.E.I. Porktoberfest that aims to do the same thing for the pork industry that P.E.I. Burger Love did for the beef industry although, to be completely fair, the province does have a beef processing plant but Island hogs are transported to the mainland for processing — making it more difficult to purchase it on P.E.I.
“I’m speechless,’’ said Debbie Crowther. “We really enjoy providing good healthy food and the majority of what we serve in our restaurant is made completely from scratch. We use local ingredients.’’
It’s that love of local that Porktoberfest was celebrating in October. The campaign encouraged local chefs to build the ultimate gourmet Island pork sausage on a bun.
Fifteen restaurants hopped on board to craft an original twist on P.E.I. pork sausage on a bun. Creating greater demand for Island pork in restaurants and grocery stores was the aim. This love for local resulted in Islanders savouring more than 2,800 sausages in October.
Paul Larsen, chair of the Hog Commodity Marketing Board, said very few restaurants had sausage on the menu before.
“Some of the chefs are actually going to start looking at sourcing more pork locally. That’s positive just to hear them say that, just to make the effort to find a local source,’’ Larsen said.
The Crowthers called their pork recipe Island Magic, the only 100 per cent gluten-free entry. It remains on the menu going forward.
Meanwhile, Holly Fraser won the home chef challenge for her creation ‘Three Pigs Go To Cuba’, a twist on the classic Cuban sandwich.
More than 60 entries were narrowed down to three finalists.
“The creativity, imagination and culinary skills of these home chefs was impressive,’’ said Melody Dover, owner of Fresh Media, the Charlottetown marketing agency that came up with the idea for P.E.I. Porktoberfest. “Islanders voted for the winner online and there were 2,614 votes cast, which is just amazing.’’
Agriculture Minister George Webster said one of the highlights of the campaign was having Rick Mercer end one of his shows by telling viewers that “when on P.E.I.’’ to enjoy a P.E.I. Porktoberfest sausage.
“Porktoberfest added to the province’s growing reputation as a recognized culinary destination that features local foods and people who produce that food,’’ Webster said.