Des Moines · Food · General · Iowa · Recipes

{Just Call Me a Professional Chef}

Now that I am an adult, I get very excited when it’s time for the Iowa State Fair! Growing up in the far northwest corner of the state, my family ventured to the Clay County Fair every year in Spencer, so it wasn’t until a few years ago that I finally experienced the Iowa State Fair. And let me tell you, it’s quite an experience!

This year I fully took in what the Fair had to offer. The first week on Thursday night I went to the For King and Country and Casting Crowns concert, then returned again on Friday for East Sider Night. And then I was back again on Monday. Why you may ask?

It’s this simple — I had the lovely opportunity to judge the Iowa Restaurant Association and Soyfoods Council’s Soy Salad Dressing Professional Chefs Contest at the Iowa State Fair! Yes, you absolutely read that right. When you get an opportunity to judge a salad dressing competition, you don’t turn it down!

The four competitors included:

  • Sous Chef Jared Harlan of Table 128 Bistro + Bar, Clive
  • Chef Pam Oldes of On The Green, Oskaloosa
  • Chef Alex Strauss of Hy-Vee Market Café, West Des Moines
  • Chef Scott Stroud of Jethro’s BBQ, West Des Moines


I learned some great facts including that soy has no cholesterol in it. Wow! By using soy based tofu in your homemade salad dressing, you won’t compromise anything in flavor, texture or taste. And I can’t totally attest that this is true after tasting the delicious dressings in the competition! If you leave your dressing with a soy base in the refrigerator overnight, it will bring out the flavors in your dressing. So many great tips!


The Chefs were challenged to make salad dressing recipes which were consumer friendly, used Mori-nu Soft Silken Tofu as the base of the dressing, and were delicious enough to put on their own menu. Each chef demonstrated the process of making the dressing, and then served four judges as well as a crowd of fair-goers.



All of the salads were so good, and it was really hard to choose a winner. After contemplating the uniqueness of the ingredients and recreate-ability, Chef Scott Stroud from Jethro’s BBQ in Waukee was the winner with his Smoked Tomato and Tofu Vinaigrette dressing over a Farmer’s Market salad. Chef Strauss received second place for his Silken Green Goddess dressing, and Chef Oldes received third place with her refreshing Creamy Apple Vinaigrette dressing. Chef Harlan was Honorable Mention with an Asian-inspired Almond and Sesame Vinaigrette.

Congrats to Chef Stroud!

All of the chefs’ recipes are available for download on both the Iowa Restaurant Association and The Soyfoods Council websites at and


You know you live in Iowa when you are a salad dressing judge at the Iowa State Fair. My life is complete.



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