At the 5thAnnual San Diego Mac n’ Cheese Festival, Mesa College Culinary Arts/Management Program won “Best Gourmet Mac n’ Cheese” of 2019. Mesa’s creative dish stole the show. After the tasting of Mesa’s, and local restaurants’ dishes, the winning dish was Mesa’s goat cheese and honeycomb-bruleed, layered mac n’ purple haze cheese/fontina cheese, with a hand made ground sausage.
The balance of flavors was well thought out. The subtle sweetness of the purple haze cheese, a tangy goat cheese spiced with fennel and lavender, complemented the savory and salty sausage. On top of that, the crackle of the bruleed goat cheese and honeycomb, is a wonderful contrast with the creaminess of the mac n’ cheese.
The inspiration for the ground sausage came when the gourmet class watched a butchering demonstration by Taj Farms’ Chef Mark Schmitt and Chef Jack Ford. The class made Merguez ground lamb sausage with harissa, which is a traditional dish in northwest Africa.
When the tastings started, Mesa’s booth was rushed, but they were prepared. The Culinary Arts/Management Program made 40 pounds of sausage, 10 gallons of sauce and 40 gallons of mac n’ cheese.
Not only was Mesa Culinary’s mac n’ cheese recipe unique, but their presentation was charming. The judges were served mac n’ cheese in an antique-look, metal miner’s pail. Two little forks hung from the pail’s handles. The fontina/purple haze mac n’ cheese was the base layer of the pail. The ground sausage was layered on top of that, and the goat cheese and honeycomb brulee formed the crispy top layer.
The Oct. 26 event attracted 300 people to Waterfront Park. Guests were invited to pair wine or local craft beer with their macs n’ cheese.
Competitors STK steakhouse and Stacked restaurant finished behind Mesa’s Culinary Program despite featuring mac n’ cheese dishes on their actual menus. Lia’s Lumpia Food Truck, Proud Marys, Lazy Dog and Studio Diner competed as well. The second place “People’s Choice” award went to Viewpoint Brewing of Del Mar.
General admission was $39, and VIP admission was $75 which featured unlimited samples, private seating and lawn games. The annual mac n’ cheese fest raises funds for the World Wide Network of Learning, which mentors young leaders to positively impact their communities.
According to Mesa culinary professor Tonya Whitfield, requests had already been made for a mac n’ cheese lunch on Dec. 3, 2019, for those who want to try something new and fabulous. The 5thAnnual Mac n’Cheese Fest featured stiff competition from local restaurants, but Mesa’s mac deservedly won the award for “Best Gourmet Mac n’Cheese.”