Home cooks to compete in Mac and Cheeze Takedown
This weekend, Lakefront Brewery, 1872 N. Commerce St., will host the city's first Mac and Cheeze Takedown, a competitive event that will feature 26 home cooks – not professionals – dishing up their finest and cheesiest recipes to the public.
The event is set for Sunday, Sept. 29 from noon to 2 p.m. and the cost is $15. Lakefront beer will be for sale, as well.
Brooklyn's Matt Timms dreamed up the "takedown" concept about 11 years ago when he was a struggling commercial actor living in a very tiny apartment. With a lot of time on his hands and not a lot of money, he started cooking most of his meals at home.
"I got obsessed with making chili," says Timms. "It's the perfect food."
After participating in a few small chili cook-off competitions, Timms decided he wanted to host one of his own without as many rules or regulations and, most importantly, focused on home cooks instead of professional chefs or restaurant owners.
Timms, 39, says his Chili Takedown concept "blew up" and so he decided to organize a Bacon Takedown during the height of bacon's pop-culture fame about five years ago.
Since then, Timms has grown the planning business to host about 16 takedown events a year in many United States cities and with many different food items, including salsa, grits and avocados.
The Avocado Takedown took place in Chicago last year. This was one of the only takedowns to have a rule: the avocado recipe could be anything except guacamole. Timms says he wanted to see where else people would take the avocado other than the obvious tortilla chip dip.
"Participants made avocado pudding, avocado butter," says Timms. "It was great."
During the event, Timms was approached by the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board to host a takedown in Milwaukee.
The organization wanted something "cheesy" and although Timms originally considered fondue, they decided mac 'n' cheese was a better fit. A couple of years ago, Timms hosted a similar takedown on the East Coast and is eager to do it again in Milwaukee.
"You know Wisconsin is gonna do this right," he says.
Event goers can sample any or all 26 dishes at the takedown. They will vote on their favorites dishes and three recipes will be awarded the People's Choice Award.
Three more recipes will receive the Judge's Ward. OnMilwaukee.com contributor and food blogger Lori Fredrich is one of the judges.
More than $1,000 in cookware from Anolon, Microplane and Wusthof will be given away as prizes.
Prior to the event, Timms wrote to local food bloggers and media outlets asking for help spreading the word that he was looking for participants. He also announced through social media that Milwaukee home cooks were invited to participate in his event.
The first 26 emails he received from interested cooks automatically got into the competition. He has a waiting list of about 15 people.
Individuals or teams of two can participate. The Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board will give $50 to each participant to cover the cost of their ingredients.
Timms says although the event has a "hipster flavor," it's actually very diverse. The Milwaukee competition includes a 15-year-old as well as two or three senior citizens and "everyone in between."
"That's really what makes this event beautiful," he says.
When he originally coined the term "takedown" Timms thought it might be too extreme, but decided over time that it fit the events very well. It gives the event a very active connotation, something that cooking for oneself requires.
"Cooking for yourself is so important," says Timms. "I'm not the first person to say this, but it's so true. It's crazy how much money we spend eating in restaurants. Actually, it's ridiculous."
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