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MCCC Culinary Instructor Frank Benowitz Wins Second Place
at Jersey Seafood Challenge


West Windsor, N.J.:  Mercer County Community College (MCCC) Chef/Instructor Frank Benowitz of Robbinsville was recently awarded second place in the 2013 Jersey Seafood Challenge held at Drumthwacket, the Governor’s residence in Princeton.

After judging in last year’s Jersey Seafood Challenge, Benowitz was asked to return this year as a competitor.  He participated with the assistance of one of his culinary students, Dave Aust.  For his signature dish Benowitz prepared golden tile fish sous-vide, then pan-seared it and paired it with a blueberry peach salsa and a blueberry tomato cilantro gastrique.

Pictured from left are MCCC Culinary students Akino Tomizawa, Tiffany Locke, David Grigoryan, and Dave Aust, along with Maddie Benowitz (front), Chef Frank Benowitz and Chef Bill Beyer.

Benowitz said he chose to use the golden tile fish in his recipe after first using it in a stage demonstration at the Atlantic City Food & Wine Show. The fish was provided by Viking Village General Manager Ernie Panacek. “I liked that the fish was local from Barnegat Light, and, since I’m known for my salsa, I chose to pair it with salsa ingredients that were also local and available in the summer months in New Jersey.”

Benowitz also earned the First Place People’s Choice Award for his mango salsa in the 24th Annual NJ State Chili and Salsa Cook Off in May.  Dozens of chili and salsa contestants from all over the East Coast compete in this annual competition held in Toms River.

This is the eighth year that Benowitz and his team have won the award, with Benowitz leading the team for the last five years.  This year’s team members included MCCC Culinary students Akino Tomizawa, Tiffany Locke, David Grigoryan, and Dave Aust, along with MCCC Chef Bill Beyer, and Benowitz’s daughter, Maddie.

 “We always make our mango salsa for this competition,” Benowitz said.  “A chef should prepare based on consumer demand, and this one is always very popular and frequently requested.”

Benowitz took over leading the team from Chef Jeffrey Cousminer of Firmenich, who was integral in starting the Culinology program at Mercer. (Culinology combines the culinary arts with the study of science.)

Pictured at the 2013 Jersey Seafood Challenge in Princeton is MCCC Chef Frank Benowitz (right) with Culinary student Dave Aust (left).  Benowitz was awarded second place for his pan-seared golden tile fish.

“When I took over the team, I didn’t have his recipe so I had to create my own,” said Benowitz.  “His recipe was fantastic and I learned the ways of salsa thanks to Jeff.  Mine is a little different because I make it a little sweeter and a little spicier.” 

He added that after so many requests for his salsa he is looking into bottling his recipe in the coming months.
For more recipes by Benowitz and the MCCC Culinary staff, cooking enthusiasts can check out “Dish It Out” on the Mercer’s cable station, MCTV-26, every night at 9 p.m.  The show is hosted by Benowitz and Hospitality Programs Coordinator Doug Fee.

For those looking to enroll in Culinary courses at Mercer this fall, registration is now underway.  Most classes begin Aug. 26.  For more information on culinary courses, click here.  All MCCC course offerings for the fall are available online.

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