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Mall of America Chef Challenge; New openings

2nd Lt. Andrea E. Dros (right) checks out photos with Staff Sgt. and winning chef Tishel Schwegel. In the background, Open Arms’ Lisa Lane and emcee Paul Ryan talk with Cantina Laredo winning chef Mauricio Legorreta (left).

It was a little more stressful than being on TV’s "Chopped," because in addition to a live audience in front of them, chefs had to create delicious dishes for a panel of four judges, using MREs (Meals Ready to Eat) as one of the ingredients, all while shoppers on three levels peered down at them.

But military chefs paired with mentor chefs from MOA restaurants who competed in a six-hour Chef Challenge at Mall of America on Veterans Day showed why they have the right stuff. The last two chef duos standing had an hour to create an amuse bouche, entrée and dessert, all with that secret combat ingredient. 

MREs, by the way, are military meals prepared to be eaten in battle and to have a long shelf life. Among the high-caloric items that found their way into appetizers and entrées were strawberry jelly, chili mac ‘n cheese, crackers and a chocolate chip cookie. In addition to the secret ingredient, chefs had access to a refrigerator filled with protein and complimentary items, plus a fully stocked pantry. 

Judges scored the duos not only on the quality of their food, but on the quality of their teamwork. 

IKEA and Best Buy contributed the kitchenware and equipment for the competition. And the winners and runners-up took home appliances from Best Buy.


Mall of America rolled out the tribute to the military on Veterans Day with a chef competition.

 Back Channel Brewing Collective opened its doors on the west side of Lake Minnetonka in September, and by November 25 they were ready to party. Its grand opening event doubled as a
limited bottle release for their Soviet Slayer Imperial Stout. "It wouldn't have felt right to have a grand opening without a special beer to celebrate," Head Brewer Marc Makarem said in a release. 

Back Channel was official launched in 2016 as the first brewery on the upper lake on Lake Minnetonka. Food for the grand opening was from Dakota Junction restaurant and Potter’s Pasties food truck.

Chef Daniel del Prado opened his first restaurant, Martina, in the former Upton 43 space on South Upton Avenue in Minneapolis in November. The masterful Marco Zappia has moved on from Grand Cafe to develop the drink program at Martina.  Del Prado was one of our 2016 Top Chefs, paired at the time with his mentor Isaac Becker at Burch. 

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