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Live cooking competition heats up, local chefs rival each other at Sprout

Jenna Brower Von Siebolds is representing Prairie Bay Grill in Baxter at the May 10 culinary challenge pitting three Minnesota chefs against each other in a kitchen showdown. Submitted photo1 / 3
Taking part in the culinary competition is Matéo Mackbee, representing Model Citizen the Restaurant in New London. Mackbee is also developing a new restaurant, Krewe, as well as a bakery in the 24 North Lofts in St. Joseph. Submitted photo2 / 3
Thomas Kavanaugh will pit his more than 40 years of culinary experience against two other chefs in a kitchen showdown resembling the Food Network show "Chopped." The event is produced by Sprout in Little Falls. Submitted photo3 / 3

LITTLE FALLS—A culinary cook-off in May pits three central Minnesota chefs against each other in an intense kitchen showdown.

This will be the second year Sprout has produced the live entertainment, which resembles the popular Food Network show "Chopped." Representing their home kitchens in Pillager, Brainerd, and New London/St. Joseph, each competing chef has expressed confidence in their skills to accept the culinary challenge of Minced: The Finer Version of Chopped, taking place 5-9 p.m. May 10, at Sprout, 609 13th Ave. NE, in Little Falls.

"The cooking competition is one way Sprout seeks to excite central Minnesotans around locally produced food, culinary art, and food culture," organizers said in a news release.

The public is invited to attend and enjoy the show, 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" says Minced organizer, Natalie Keane, in a news 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 ingredients in a mystery basket that must be used in the chefs' dish. 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 Meadow Roberts, the 10-year-old baking pro who competed on The Food Network's "Kids Baking Championship."

Chefs will not know what mystery ingredients they will have to work with, but ingredients will represent and celebrate East African food culture. Ingredients will be sourced from Somali grocery stores in St. Cloud which carry a variety of ingredients such as tamarind, cassava, cardamom, and goat meat, all of which could end up in the mystery basket for an appetizer, entrée, or even a dessert.

The winner of the first Minced competition in 2018 was Chef Scotty Stocco, who impressed the judges in the final round with a dessert featuring pork cracklings, purple hominy and dragon fruit.

Stocco will host this year's competition and follow the chefs in the kitchen with commentary for the audience. Stocco also won the People's Choice award in 2018, which was determined by audience vote during the event. Dinner and drinks will be available for purchase from pop-up restaurants and at a bar.

Tickets to attend Minced are $10 per person, $25 for a family (two adults and two children) and those age 12 and under are free. Tickets can be purchased by visiting sproutmn.com/minced or the Facebook event. The audience will help determine the Popular Choice prize by casting a donation vote.

Representing the Pillager High School ProStart Program in Pillager is Thomas Kavanaugh, with over 40 years of culinary experience. Kavanaugh's mentorship of the high school culinary art program recently earned Pillager's student chefs third place in the Minnesota ProStart Invitational in St. Paul. Representing Prairie Bay Grill in Baxter is Jenna Brower Von Siebolds. Although Brower Von Siebolds has been in the kitchen business for just six years, she showcases a wanderlust illustrative of a global cuisine connoisseur. Representing Model Citizen the Restaurant in New London is Matéo Mackbee. Mackbee is also developing a new restaurant, Krewe, as well as a bakery in the 24 North Lofts in St. Joseph. The restaurant will feature a New Orleans-style menu, while the bakery will be making French and Scandinavian pastries.

Minced is partially funded through a grant awarded to the Region Five Development Commission by ArtPlace America's National Creative Placemaking Fund. Sponsorship opportunities are available for companies and organizations that want to be involved with this exciting new event, promoting culinary art, local foods, cultural connections, and live entertainment. This event is presented by Sprout MN, Region Five Development Commission, Central Lakes College, and Three Cheers Hospitality.