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Nicolet College Culinary Student Wins National Recipe Competition

Nicolet College

A Nicolet College culinary student recently won a national veal cooking competition.

Maja Holcomb created a cherry agrodolce sauce to serve with grilled veal chops.

Made with balsamic vinegar, honey, olive oil and shallot, her sweet and sour recipe has one special ingredient – Wisconsin cherries.

Agrodolce sauce is a sweet and sour Italian condiment.

Holcomb said it’s kind of like ketchup – a sauce that can be whipped up to serve with anything.

“The agrodolce, it’s a sweet and sour sauce. I used balsamic vinegar, dark cherries because I wanted to keep it kind of Wisconsinish, sugar, honey, shallots. It’s just such a simple sauce, a little salt and pepper of course,” she said.

This simple recipe was selected as the best in national veal in the Discover Delicious Collegiate Veal Recipe Competition.

“I was kind of disbelief,” Holcomb said. “I kept mine simple, so I wasn’t sure how it would fare. I’m proud of that.”

To recognize her accomplishment, Holcomb will receive a $500 scholarship from the Wisconsin Beef Council and an $1,000 scholarship from the New York Beef Council, both sponsors of the competition. 

Those scholarships will help Holcomb continue her education at Nicolet College, where she just has a few semesters left to complete associates degrees in culinary management and culinary arts.

Then, Holcomb wants to someday open her own restaurant.

“My main goal one day is to open my own establishment with the primary goal of providing my employees with a positive work environment that encourages personal and professional growth because that’s what I experienced. That’s what ignited my passion and I hope to give that to others in the future,” she said.

With her award-winning cherry agrodolce sauce (recipe below), she’s off to a strong start.

Grilled Veal Chops with Cherry Agrodolce

Yield: 4 servings    Portion: 1 Chop   Method: Marinate, grill, rest; Reduce    Time: 1.5 hour

Grilled Veal:

Credit Nicolet College

4- 6-8 oz. Veal chops

½ c. Olive Oil

1 T Dried thyme leaves

2 tsp Salt

1 tsp Ground black pepper

Cherry Agrodolce:

Credit Nicolet College

1 T Olive oil

1 Shallot, minced

1 Garlic clove, minced

2 c. Balsamic vinegar

2 T Honey

½ lb. Pitted Cherries, about 1 ½ c. (Dark or Red; Fresh or frozen and thawed)


Mix ½ c. olive oil, thyme, salt, and pepper. Rub gently onto chops.

Let marinate for 1 hour- or longer for an extra tender chop.

Heat 1 T of olive oil in a small sauce pan. Add minced shallot and cook until browned then add garlic, cooking for another minute. Pour in balsamic vinegar and bring to a gentle boil, then reduce to a simmer for about 10 minutes.

At this point, you can either strain off the shallot/garlic mixture or leave it in for a heartier reduction. I strain the liquid off, right into the bowl of pitted cherries.

Return the cherries and liquid to heat and add 2 T of honey. Bring to a boil then reduce and simmer for an additional 20-25 minutes, depending on your desired consistency. Season with salt and pepper and allow to cool to room temperature.

Heat the grill to high. Once hot, remove as much excess oil from veal chops as possible. Place veal on grill and do not disturb for 3 minutes, or until the meat naturally releases from the grill. Flip chops and cook for another 2 minutes until desired doneness is reached. Let the meat rest before serving with cherry Agrodolce.

Erin Gottsacker worked at WXPR as a Morning Edition host and reporter from December 2020 to January 2023. During her time at the station, Erin reported on the issues that matter most in the Northwoods.
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