American pork took center stage across western Russia this month with high-profile participation in an international culinary competition and master classes for Russian chefs, as well as at ExpoHoreca, which is the leading hospitality industry trade show.

The Baltic Culinary Star Cup drew top young chefs from Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Russia to compete against one another and develop creative dishes using U.S. pork loin and beef cuts. ExpoHoreca, the 10th International Specialized Exhibition of Hospitality Industry, drew food industry professionals from the Baltic region’s hospitality sector and abroad.

“The large attendance this year – estimated at 10,000 – could signal a positive change in the HRI (hotel, restaurant, institutional) sector, which was heavily affected by the financial crisis,” said Yuri Barutkin, St. Petersburg representative for the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF). Barutkin noted that the USMEF also is working to develop interest among Russian chefs in pork loins.

Both U.S. beef and pork received added visibility at ExpoHoreca through USMEF master classes that ran through all three days of the show. American pork loins were featured in dishes prepared by leading chefs from top hotels and top restaurants in St. Petersburg.

“The master classes featuring U.S. pork and beef enabled us to reach a wide range of professionals and consumers with information about the quality attributes of U.S. red meat, which is so different from our competition,” said Barutkin. “And, as always, tasting the product spoke louder than a thousand words for consumers.”

He added, “Most of the participants are very young chefs. They are right out of culinary school, so they are developing their skills and reputations, and this is the perfect time to educate them about working with the highest quality ingredients, such as U.S. beef and pork.”

Support for USMEF’s participation in ExpoHoreca, the Baltic Culinary Cup and the master classes was provided through the USDA Market Access Program, the National Pork Checkoff program and the Beef Checkoff program.