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Foodie Entrepreneurs invited to combine their dreams and cuisine

By Salena Krueger, Times Staff Reporter
On May 9, 2013

by Salena Krueger
Times Staff Reporter

The second annual Wisconsin's Hottest Kitchen Entrepreneur Challenge opened to the public  April 2, 2013, looking for new food products or concepts. This challenge has brought attention to many culinary experts, entrepreneurs and sponsors located in the Milwaukee area.
A Wisconsin statewide provider, Reliable Water Services, who specializes in commercial water heaters, boilers and water softeners, got involved in this challenge due to its large customer base in the restaurant industry.
Milwaukee Area Technical College and Reliable Water Services have partnered up again to support the 2013 challenge. Due to the incredible turn out and interest last year, both sponsors not only decided to continue the hot challenge but added a new area for eligible teens to show off some talent too.
Lynn Robinson, president of Reliable Water Services, believes this event can make a difference for a new entrepreneur with an original food idea. MATC culinary arts instructor Chef Jack Kaestner is a huge supporter as well and believes anyone who has an amazing food business idea could gain a great deal of exposure from this challenge.
 The adult grand prize winner will receive:

  • $2,500 in seed money from Reliable Water Services to start their business
  • A comprehensive entrepreneurial consultation package from MATC
  • Private meetings with food industry executives serving on the FAB Milwaukee's advisory council
  • Professional cookware from Boelter SuperStore

The teen (14-18 years old) grand prize winner will receive a $1,000 scholarship from MATC and $500 in seed money from Reliable Water Services.
Last year's winner, Bree Schumacher, was made aware of the challenge after reading about it in the Shepherd Express. She entered her kid's favorite dinner (an organic Italian kale dish) and ultimately ended up being one of the three finalists. Last year's judges were extremely impressed with her healthy idea and voted her as Wisconsin's Hottest Kitchen Entrepreneur in 2012.
Schumacher's product is a natural, healthy dinner starter which includes 100% natural ingredients, is gluten free and vegetarian, and takes 30 minutes or less to prepare. She has created another healthy starter which has smoky and tangy flavors for Mexican dishes.  These healthy bases create amazing flavors when added to pizza, pasta, quesadillas, seafood and much more. Busy Bree's 100% natural dinner starters can now be found at local grocery stores. For more information visit
This year the number of judges has expanded and includes local business owners who are very well known in the food and beverage industry:

  • Jan Kelly, owner and chef of Meritage Restaurant
  • Peter Gottsacker, president of Wixon, Inc., a manufacturer of seasonings, flavors and technologies for the food, beverage and meat industry
  • Angela West, co-founder of Alcoholmanac Magazine, Milwaukee
  • Betsy Gilmore, general manager, Bel Air Cantina in Wauwatosa
  • Jack Kaestner, chef instructor for MATC
  • Lynn Sbonik, co-owner of Beans & Barley Deli, Market and Café
  • Eric Olesen, co-owner and president, O&H Danish Bakery of Racine  

On June 26, the finalists for this year's hottest kitchen challenge were announced, all using Wisconsin-made ingredients in their creations:
•Andrew Bechaud, Milwaukee - Bechaud Elixing Co., a line of handcrafted small - batch beverages made with Wisconsin agricultural ingredients. Tempting flavors include Chocolate Chai Veloute and Spring Blossom Cherry Soda. His dream is to start a small production facility and sell to local upscale grocers such as Sendik's or Whole Foods.
•Pete Cooney, Milwaukee - Pete's Pops - Handcrafted Ice Pops, a frozen treat made with fresh fruits and natural sugars in flavors like Strawberry Basil and Pineapple Jalapeno. Cooney wants to produce through a commercial kitchen, start selling via a push cart at local events and ultimately distribute through area grocers.
•Marcus Thie, Shorewood, Wis. - Sauceformations, a line of gluten-free and Paleo-diet friendly organic sauces for home chefs including Tomato Choka, a recipe from Trinidad packed with flavor and nutrients. He wants to launch StreetBeet, a food truck where he can promote locally grown food and showcase organic recipes featuring his sauce line.

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