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'Minced' cooking competition to feature local chefs

LITTLE FALLS—A culinary cook-off in May will pit three central Minnesota chefs against each other in a kitchen showdown.

Representing their home kitchens in Brainerd, Crosby and St. Cloud, each chef expressed confidence in their skills to accept the culinary challenge of "Minced: The Finer Version of Chopped." The competition will begin 5 p.m. May 15 at Sprout, 609 13th Ave. NE, Door 8, Little Falls.

The cooking competition is one way Sprout seeks to excite central Minnesotans around locally produced food, culinary art and food culture, a news release stated. The public is invited to attend and to learn more about Sprout's food access work, of which proceeds from the event will benefit.

"This unscripted, unsifted challenge will grill three local chefs as they face off in the Sprout Kitchen stadium," stated Minced organizer, Natalie Keane, in the release. "We're not afraid to whip up the food puns for this fun event. We'll need that good humor, and so will the chefs when they find out what we have in store."

Inspired from the popular competitive cooking show, Minced will create cooking challenges by the introduction of unique and bizarre ingredients in a "mystery basket" that must be used in the chefs' dishes. Community members get to watch as the mystery basket foils the plans of contestants as they serve up a dish to impress Minnesota celebrity judges, like cookbook author and chef Beth Dooley ("In Winter's Kitchen: Growing Roots and Breaking Bread in the Northern Heartland," among other titles).

Representing Sage on Laurel in Brainerd will be chef Fred Stumbo. St. Cloud Hospital and Morrison Healthcare's Paul Ruszat will join in the kitchen along with Scotty Stocco from Iron Range Eatery in Crosby.

Chefs will not know what mystery ingredients they will have to work with, but ingredients will represent and celebrate Latin food culture. Ingredients will be sourced from Mi Pueblito Market and Restaurant in Long Prairie. Mi Pueblito owner Gio Garcia has led cooking demonstrations at the Sprout Growers & Makers Marketplace. Mi Pueblito Market carries a variety of ingredients such as chorizo, dried peppers, and tomatillos, all of which could end up in the mystery basket for an appetizer, entree or dessert.

The public is invited to cheer on their favorite chef over wine and appetizers, helping determine the Popular Choice prize by casting a donation vote. Audience members can toss in a dollar to vote for the chef that impresses them the most. Tickets to attend Minced are $10 and can be purchased by visiting https://tinyurl.com/sproutminced or https://tinyurl.com/mincedfacebook.

Dollars raised during Minced will go toward the launch of the Sprout Mobile Market, which will seek to close the missing meal gap in rural Minnesota by putting fresh local foods en route to designated food deserts. Attendees will learn more about this work and the upcoming social crowdfunding campaign for the mobile market at the cooking competition.