By Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host Published May 31, 2013 at 11:01 AM

"I haven't done a mystery box competition since culinary school," admits Mark Klinkowitz of the Grain Exchange.

He’s getting a little bit nervous – and understandably so -- since he’ll be going head to head on Monday, June 3rd with three of his colleauges, Amber Dorzinski from Joey Gerard's in Mequon, Kevin Beutin from Ristorante Bartolotta, and  Andrew Fisher from Harbor House.

The ‘Lotta Chefs competition, which will raise money for Pathfinders, a homeless shelter and nonprofit organization offering vital services for youth in Milwaukee, will require chefs to compete to create the tastiest dish using only butane burners and ingredients from a "mystery box" and the shelter’s pantry. 

"The biggest challenge, I think, will be to make the most out of the available ingredients," he says. "Controlling a non-traditional heat source is just one challenge, but it takes time and knowledge to make a dish taste great using unknown products. It's not like you can make a stock or a reduction sauce in the blink of an eye!"

But, Dorzinksi, who is dead-set on keeping her mystery dish seasonal, fresh, and summary, isn’t intimidated.

"I am very competitive," she says. "I always want to be the best at what I do. I definitely don't want to lose!"

And, in this particular case, the chefs are focusing on more than just the food.

"I think most chefs are drawn to the kitchen at a young age," remarks Fisher. "It would mean a lot to be able to inspire someone or influence a career choice. I want to create some positive memories and show how rewarding a chef's job can be."

Klinkowitze agrees. 

"I feel that it's the responsibility of current chefs to inspire and mentor that future generation," he says. "Ask any chef and they will tell you that they had a mentor. Someone that inspired them to not only want to be a chef but also awakened the passion for food that it takes to be a chef. The culinary field in general is great for keeping youths grounded by providing a stable structured environment that teaches youths how to develop a strong work ethic and passion for something that makes other people happy."

The ‘Lotta Chefs competition takes place on Monday, June 3 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Pathfinders, 4200 N. Holton St. Kyle Cherek, host of the Emmy nominated "Wisconsin Foodie," will moderate. Tickets are $75, and include wine, beer and appetizers. Limited seating is available; only 100 tickets will be sold for this one-of-a-kind event. Purchase online at

This event is just one piece of a summer-long collaboration between Pathfinders and Bartolotta’s charitable arm, Care-a-lotta. Other initiatives will include fundraising for Pathfinders through the sale of a special lemonade at Bradford Beach’s Northpoint Custard.

Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host

Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club. 

When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.