Finalists to compete in local kitchen entrepreneur challenge

From casserole delivery to malt vinegars fermented with craft beers, this year’s top food business concepts for the Hottest Kitchen Entrepreneur Challenge are all about adding a new twist to classic flavors.

Three start-up finalists and three early stage finalists will compete in the regional contest to find the next great start-up and early stage food entrepreneurs. Scheduled for Thursday at noon, the public is invited to watch the finalists compete for the grand prize at a final judging event at Milwaukee Area Technical College’s future Food Maker School at the MATC Education Center at Walker’s Square.

The challenge is sponsored by Milwaukee Area Technical College; Reliable Water Services, a statewide provider of commercial water heaters, boilers and water softeners based in Milwaukee; and FaB Wisconsin, the state’s food and beverage industry cluster network, also based in Milwaukee.  Other prize sponsors include the Milwaukee-based restaurant supply store Fein Brothers and community kitchen MKE Kitchen.

The start-up finalists are:

• Karen Allen, Oconomowoc – The Raw Conformist – “Raw prepared desserts and snacks that are decadently delicious with the upside of being delightfully nutritious. Created with a unique blend of organic, gluten-free ‘raw’ ingredients such as nuts, cacao and Madagascar vanilla.”
• Robert Holton, Glendale – Milwaukee Craft Brew Vinegar – “Craft beers fermented into completely unique malt vinegars, from a saison-style, which ages into champagne-like vinegar to the richness of a maple bock aged to almost balsamic-like finish. Goal is to extend the line into flavorful sauces and pickled vegetables.”
• Pedro Tejada , Milwaukee – Pedro’s South American Empanadas – “A food truck selling homemade empanadas in flavor combinations such as potato chorizo and aged cheddar, ramp cauliflower chickpea curry, and Peruvian chili chicken.  Pedro’s goal is to introduce the culture and flavors of South America to those who have not experienced it.”

The early stage finalists are:

• Jennifer Grundy, Milwaukee– 5 Lilies – “Small batch preserves, locally-sourced and organic, whenever possible.  There are three year-round flavors including Blueberry Lavender Peach, Blushing Berry, and Pear Citrus Ginger, as well as several seasonal flavors. These jams are meant for people who love to cook and eat.”
• Susan Knutson, Elm Grove–The Naked Baker LLC – “The ultimate cookie experience with frozen all-natural gourmet cookie dough. Each recipe uses all natural ingredients free of preservatives, artificial sweeteners, and hydrogenated oils.”
• Jessica Williamson, Hales Corners – Cream City Casseroles –“Milwaukee’s only casserole delivery service featuring comfort-food classics such as chicken and biscuits, shepherd’s pie, pizza casserole and more. Meals are delivered fully-cooked and cold, ready to pop in the oven, fridge or freeze. It’s guilt-free ‘real food’ for busy families.”

The grand prize winner in each category will receive:

• $2,000 in seed money from Reliable Water Services.
• Tuition for a three-credit course at MATC during the 2015-16 academic year.
• Private meeting with food industry executives serving on FaB Wisconsin’s advisory council and a one-year membership in FaB Wisconsin.
• Commercial kitchen and consultation services from MKE Kitchen plus registration fee for Riverwest Farmer’s Market, if appropriate; total value: $1,000.
• Prize package worth $350 from Fein Brothers Restaurant Equipment & Supplies.

The judges for the contest are:

• Kurt Fogle, executive pastry chef for SURG Restaurant Group.
• Jan Kelly, owner and chef, Meritage restaurant, Milwaukee.
• Peter Gottsacker, president, Wixon Seasonings & Flavor Systems.
• Lynn Sbonik, co-owner of Beans & Barley Deli, Market & Full Service Café.
• Nick Maas, premise specialist for Agave Loco LLC (RumChata, Tippy Cow brands).
• Jennifer Marino, owner, Angelic Bakehouse.
• Rakesh (Ryan) Rehan, owner, Café India.

“There is real passion among these challengers, and we can’t wait to see what level of spirit these food entrepreneurs bring to our finalist competition,” said Jan Kelly, contest judge.

To R.S.V.P. for the event, click here.

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