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Alum returns with a chef competition

BY MARY HARRINGTON | APRIL 16, 2009 7:34 AM

UI alumnus Brady Lowe’s gift to the rest of the country is his Iowa-inspired flair for food. He has established himself nationally as a Southern foodie, pairing high-end flavors for his clients. Now, he’s taking his talent on a 10-city tour, throwing cooking battles across the country.

And the next stop is bringing it all back home.

On April 19, the 33-year-old will spark competition between five Iowa chefs, fueling the culinary battle with whole heritage pigs — purebred animals raised specially for their high-quality meat. They call it Cochon 555, where five chefs, five pigs, and five winemakers gather to give more than 250 guests a taste of their state in the Taste Network competition.

Pork juices will flow from curl-tailed centerpieces as artisan winemakers whet patrons’ palates in Des Moines. Iowa chefs and attendees will rate the competing chefs’ final pork presentations, crowning just one the Prince of Pork of Iowa.

Since heating up in Atlanta — where Lowe’s business is based — in September, the tour has received national attention, showing up in such publications as the New York Times and Food and Wine.

Now, following a successful event in Boston, the crew is heading to Lowe’s home turf. And the foodie is excited about getting his childhood state inspired by some local good eats.

“Iowa has a very strong, growing culinary scene,” he said. “A lot of the chefs are bringing ideas from the big cities back to the Midwest and turning them into these incredible hybrid creations.”

After he fled the Midwest, he had success with Taste Network, a hospitality business providing high-end specialty food pairings, such as wine and cheese.

While still studying at the UI, Lowe said, he had the urge to step outside the meat and potatoes culinary box. Restaurants such as Devotay and the Sanctuary Restaurant and Pub satisfied his cravings for high-end dining far beyond the dormitory lunch buffet, he said.

“Iowa has really inspired my interest to try new cuisine,” said Lowe, who still buys Iowa sweet corn in bulk every summer to distribute to top chefs in Atlanta. “I was blessed to see great food when I was growing up.”

He grew up surrounded by food — his mother was a favorite personal chef in his childhood kitchen, and his father was an at-home artisan creating tomato sauce and dough with his hands.

“Food was always important in my family,” said Erin Wormley, Lowe’s older sister. “Brady’s just taken that love to a whole new level.”

Work at a cigar shop as a student gave Lowe a knowledge of fine smokes and a paycheck that got him a collection of fine wines as well. Applying his at-home food training and work environment to entrepreneurial skills gathered in UI classes, he was able to eventually profit from his ability to pair the tastes of delicious delicacies for others.

“I always knew I wanted to do something where I was sharing new experiences with people for the first time,” he said, pausing to describe the first drop of properly selected wine onto a cheese-tinged tongue. “When you taste those mind-blowing flavors together for the first time, you can not hide it on your face. It’s a once in a lifetime kind of thing, and I wanted to be the one to witness those new experiences happening to other people.”


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