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Local chefs to put food on the line in master chef competition

Local chefs from left, Ally Tschida, Joel London and Matt Vik will compete at the Regional Master Chef Challenge in Bemidji this coming Sunday. (Submitted Photo)

Three chefs from the Good Life Cafe in Park Rapids will compete next week at the Third Annual Harvest Festival and Regional Master Chef Challenge hosted by Harmony Natural Foods Co-op in Bemidji.

The event is Oct. 16 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The Good Life Cafe chefs - Ally Tschida, Matt Vik and Joel London - will take on the Leach Brothers, Brett and Derek, the 2015 Bemidji Master Chef Champions and owners of Bar 209 and Turtle River Chophouse, both located in Bemidji.

"It's going to be pretty neck and neck," Rachel Munson, Marketing Coordinator at Harmony Foods said about the competition. "Both competitors make some really great food."

According to Munson, this year they really wanted to expand to a regional competition by inviting chefs located outside of Bemidji and draw participants from different parts of the community.

"It's really exciting. It's really nerve racking it'll be really fun," The Good Life Cafe's team captain, Tschida said. "Even if we don't win, they're really good chefs; it's cool that they thought we were competition enough to want us to go up there and do it."

Each team will have four hours to prepare a three-dish meal consisting of an entree, a side dish and a dessert to serve 125 people.

The two teams will go head-to-head using main ingredients that will be sourced from local farms and businesses and supplied by Harmony Co-op. The ingredients will need to be incorporated into each of the dishes. The teams will have access to spices and each team will receive a $200 gift card to be used at Harmony Co-op to supplement the meals they will create.

The finished dishes will go to a panel of three judges - Martin Graefe, Sue Doeden and Ann Campbell - who will judge the competitors on flavor, creativity, visual appeal, difficulty of recipes and use of ingredients. Special criteria such as gluten free and vegan options will allow for the teams to earn bonus points.

After the judges have tried the food the community members in attendance will get to sample the creations as well at 12:15 p.m. and the winner will be determined at 12:30 p.m.

Harmony Co-op contacted The Good Life Cafe last spring, and although they won't receive their list of ingredients until later in the week, Team Good Life has already begun brainstorming their strategy.

"I'll tackle the side and maybe help with some of the entree. Joel is definitely the dessert guy, he's really good at that and Matt is really good at the main, center of the plate protein," Tschida said about their preparations.

They intend to help each other where needed but splitting up the responsibility seems to be the best plan of action for them, according to Tschida.

Both teams, as well as Harmony Co-op, hope to get support from both the Park Rapids and Bemidji communities. The purpose of the festival, Munson said, is to celebrate local farmers and the season's harvest with fun activities and delicious food.

The event and meal will be free will donation and all of the proceeds will be going to the Community Table; formerly known as the Bemidji Community Soup Kitchen.

The community events will begin at 10 a.m. with local product sampling from local vendors, live music by Corey Medina & Brothers, children's activities and a social hour. The event is free and open to the public.

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