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Winners Announced for Hottest Kitchen Entrepreneur Challenge
Concepts Add Flavor, Convenience and Healthy Twist to Classic Foods

July 23, 2015

From casserole delivery to malt vinegars fermented with craft beers, this year's top food business concepts for the Hottest Kitchen Entrepreneur Challenge were all about adding a new twist to classic flavors. Three start-up finalists and three early stage finalists competed in the regional contest to find the next great start-up and early stage food entrepreneurs. The challenge was sponsored by Milwaukee Area Technical College, Reliable Water Services, a statewide provider of commercial water heaters, boilers and water softeners, and FaB Wisconsin, the state's food and beverage industry cluster network.

Start-Up Competition:

Robert Holton, Glendale, Wis., Milwaukee Craft Brew Vinegar, was selected by the judges as the Start-Up contest winner. He also won the People's Choice award in the Start-Up competition. His entries included 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. The goal is to extend the line into flavorful sauces and pickled vegetables. 

Other Start-Up finalists were: 

-- Karen Allen - Oconomowoc, Wis. - 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.

-- 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.

Early Stage Competition:

Susan Knutson, Elm Grove, Wis., The Naked Baker, LLC, was selected by judges as the winner of the Early Stage  finalists' competition.  Her entry was  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, Wis.  Cream City Casseroles, won the Early Stage People's Choice Award. The company is 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 freezer. It's guilt-free 'real food' for busy families.

The other Early Stage finalist was Jennifer Grunde - Milwaukee - 5 Lilies, competing with 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.

The finalists competed July 23 at Milwaukee Area Technical College's future Food Maker School at the MATC Education Center at Walker's Square.

The grand prize winner in each category received:

  • $2,000 in seed money from Reliable Water Services
  • Tuition for a 3-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
Judges for the contest included:
  • 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 Cafe
  • Nick Maas, premise specialist for Agave Loco LLC (RumChata, Tippy Cow Brands)
  • Jennifer Marino, owner, Angelic Bakehouse
  • Rakesh (Ryan) Rehan, owner, Café India


For more information, visit Reliable Water Services at

View/Print the list of 2015 finalists ( pdf)