DES MOINES - For Gary "Vinnie" Vinsand, getting to Des Moines this week to cook for World Pork Expo visitors is a change of pace from his regular duties as owner of Vinnie's BBQ in Dakota City.
He and wife, Tammy Vinsand, prepared 500 meals for the Hog Slats' exhibitor tent at the Expo, serving pulled pork and barbecued rib tips.
They'll be back today with 500 portions of rib tips and smoked pork chop sandwich.
"If everything is planned right," Gary Vinsand said, "I'll be out of food by then."
Vinsand was the second-place winner of the 2012 Iowa's Best Tenderloin contest, sponsored by the Iowa Pork Producers Association.
"I was pretty happy," he said, explaining that the process starts with nominations from customers. It was confirmation to him that he provides a service that people appreciate.
Vinsand, a 27-year service manager for the John Deere dealership in Humboldt, said he started 11 years ago in his second career as a barbecue business owner by competing in contests in Waterloo, Mason City, State Center, Marshalltown and Emmetsburg.
In 1995, thinking he had a good enough mix of rubs and seasonings that would please Iowans' taste buds, he purchased the former Gordy's restaurant building and opened his eatery.
"After the win," Vinsand said, "we were serving 50 to 60 tenderloins daily.
"Before, it was that many in a week."
He purchases pork chops from an Iowa packing house. He and Tammy Vinsand pound the tenderloins themselves, then use his own rub to season the meat. He buys cracker crumbs, adds another seasoning to them and grinds them to a fine texture as the breading.
After getting enough nominations to be considered for IPPC's contest, Gregg Hora, president of the Webster County Pork Producers, made the first visit to the restaurant and recommended Vinsand's tenderloins for the next step.
That was followed by an unannounced visit by IPPC judges, who sampled and rated the dish on a point system.
"They didn't tell us who they were until it was over," Tammy Vinsand said. "But they told us we were in the top five."
After opening his restaurant, Vinsand said he added a meeting room, which is used for quarterly sales meetings by Hog Slats, "with people coming from Minnesota and all over," he said.
He's been the food supplier for Hog Slats for several years he said. Although he has his smoker on-site, it's primarily used for warming the food for the Expo.
Due to the logistics of feeding 500 a day, Vinsand said, it's easier to prepare the food at the restaurant, pack it in vacuum bags and then thaw and warm them on site.
"It works pretty good," he said.
This is the first year that his wife assisted him at the Expo. That job is generally reserved for his daughter, Marci Vinsand, who is now the director of Iowa State University Extension for Polk County.
"Tammy said, 'This isn't so bad,'" Vinsand said, "but tomorrow we'll be grilling the pork chop sandwiches and then she'll see what we really do."