September marks the first month of Pear Bureau Northwest’s annual Pear Panache contest, which features a new chef and his or her winning pear recipe each month.

This year, the program should run through March with seven chefs who submitted winning recipes to the Milwaukie, Ore-based Pear Bureau, which promotes pears from Washington and Oregon under the name USA Pears. The bureau then promotes the recipes, the winning chefs and the restaurants, while the chefs, in turn, talk about pears, their versatility and how they chose to use them.

“Through this program, we are able to appeal to print, broadcast and online journalists with not only the story of fresh USA Pears, but with the unique story of each winning chef and his or her innovative recipe,” said Cristie Mather, public relations manager for the bureau.

First winning Pear Panache chef of the season announced

Courtesy Pear Bureau Northwest

Chef Geoff Kelty's grilled pears stuffed with mascarpone and bacon earned him a turn in the winner's circle during this year's Pear Panache.

First winning Pear Panache chef of the season announced

Kelty

Geoff Kelty, chef at Eddie Merlot’s restaurant in Columbus, Ohio, took the first honor this year with grilled pears stuffed with mascarpone and bacon, an appetizer, according to a Pear Bureau news release.

“Because of our outreach, our Pear Panache chefs oftentimes appear on their local television news programs preparing their recipes live, and they in turn educate viewers about the varieties and versatility of USA Pears,” Mather said.

The chefs also educate consumers about how to check the ripeness of the pears, as well as letting them know that 84% of pears from the U.S. are grown in Oregon and Washington, the states Pear Bureau Northwest represents.

Kelty has been with Eddie Merlot’s since 2001. The chain has plans to expand into Northbrook, Ill., Minneapolis and Denver in 2009, and is negotiating locations in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Chicago, Cleveland, Louisville, Ky.; Southlake, Texas; Boca Raton, Fla., and Cary, N.C., according to its Web site.