Minnesota Cooks at the State Fair

Katie Cannon / Heavy Table
Katie Cannon / Heavy Table

Minnesota Cooks, a program held annually at the Minnesota State Fair, is a celebration of local food that educates fair goers in the only way possible — through their stomachs. The full-day program is broken into hour-long segments, each akin to the Quick Fire Challenges from Top Chef. With 45 minutes on the clock, chefs use ingredients from local farmers to create dishes to feed three to five hungry celebrity tasters and 200 hungry audience members. Unlike the beloved television hit, however, in this scenario there is no one winner. With beautiful dishes made from local foods served, we all win.

Pictured below is a sampling from the day.

Katie Cannon / Heavy Table
Katie Cannon / Heavy Table

Mike Phillips of The Craftsman
Grilled Lamb Leg with Chile Braised Potato
With farmer Deborah Pikovsky from Star Thrower Farm

Matt Annand from Prairie Bay Grill & Catering in Baxter
Salad of Confit of Duck Rillette with Roasted Corn and Lavender Vinaigrette
With farmer Gary Pahl of Pahl Farms

Tasters: State Senator Gary Kubly, Jeremy Iggers (Twin Cities Media Alliance), Kirby Schmidt (Future Farmers of America)

Katie Cannon / Heavy Table
Katie Cannon / Heavy Table

Tracy Singleton and Marshall Paulsen of Birchwood Cafe
Birchwood Cobb Salad with Poached Garlic and Honey Vinaigrette
With farmer John Svihel of Svihel Farms

Jon Radle of Grand Cafe
Grilled Thousand Hills Beef Tenderloin, Local Corn Grits with Sweet Corn, Tomatoes, and Tarragon, and a Grilled Onion-Pickled Ramp Relish
With Todd Churchill of Thousand Hills Cattle Co.

Tasters: Senator Al Franken, Kate Rime (Eco Metro / Blue Sky Guide), Carrie Tollefson (Olympic runner)

Katie Cannon / Heavy Table
Katie Cannon / Heavy Table

Scott Pampuch of Corner Table
White Pork Sausage with Apples
With farmer Charlie Johnson of Whistling Well Farm

Nathalie Johnson of Signature Cafe
Lutheran Church Basement Apple Crisp
With farmer Loretta Jaus of Organic Valley

Tasters: Stephanie Hansen (FM 107.1), Boyd Huppert (KARE 11), Art Hughes (freelance journalist)

Katie Cannon / Heavy Table
Katie Cannon / Heavy Table

Judi Barsness of Chez Jude in Grand Marais
New York Strip Steak Herbs de Provence with Shitake Mushroom, Butternut Squash, Pea, Hazelnut Wild Rice, Orzotto
With farmer Eric Klein of Hidden Stream Farm

JD Fratzke of The Strip Club
Grilled Pork Loin and Pancetta with Heirloom Tomatoes over Grilled Sourdough
With farmers Jim and LeeAnn VanDerPol of Pastures A Plenty

Tasters: Sue Zelickson (WCCO), Burt Cohen (Minneapolis St. Paul Magazine)

Katie Cannon / Heavy Table
Katie Cannon / Heavy Table

Michael Murray-John of Vinifera Vine & Dine in Wabasha
Panzanella Salad

Scott Graden of New Scenic Cafe in Duluth
Ratatouille Lasagne

Both with farmers Brian and Leslie Axdahl of Axdahl Farms

Tasters: Mayor Chris Coleman, Tom Helgeson (Midwest Fly Fishing), M.A. Rosko (FOX9 Morning News)

Katie Cannon / Heavy Table
Katie Cannon / Heavy Table

Heather Hartman of Spoonriver
Wheatberry-Arborio Risotto with Grilled Summer Squash and Sweet Corn, Eggplant, and Heirloom Tomato Basil Relish

Dick Trotter and Lisa Scribner of Trotter’s Cafe and Bakery
Roasted Summer Vegetable Pizza on Focaccia and White Velvet Cake with Vanilla Bean Butter Cream Frosting and Raspberries

Both with farmer Paul Otten of Natura Farms

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Tasters: Senator Amy Klobuchar, Seitu Jones (visual artist), James Norton (Heavy Table), Mary Lahammer (Twin Cities Public TV)

Also featured in the program were the following chefs, farmers and tasters:

Brian Henning of Bethel University Dining Services
Potato Crusted Walleye Fillets with Sauteed Leeks, Peppers, and Carrots
With farmer Annette Gilbertson of Gilbertson Farms

Lisa Lindberg of Amboy Cottage Cafe in Amboy
Potato Bread and Variations
With Dan and Mike Minar of Cedar Summit Farm

Tasters: Don Shelby (WCCO), Mayor R.T. Rybak, Julie Bleyhl (AFSCME)

Danny Schwartzman and Kay Taylor of Common Roots Cafe
Riverbend Polenta with Smokey Black Eyed Peas, Sauteed Greens, and a Fried Egg
With farmer Dave Massey of Northwoods Organic Produce

Brian Hauke of the Red Stag Supper Club
Monte Cristo on Brioche with Pork, Swiss, and Fruit Compote
With farmer Mike Dekarski from Apple Jack Orchards

Tasters: Lori Sturdevant (Star Tribune), Paul Hugunin (MN Dept. of Ag / Minnesota Grown), Tim Brownell (Eureka Recycling)

Katie Cannon / Heavy Table
Katie Cannon / Heavy Table


  1. artsy

    I was there for the 2 and 3:00 sessions–my only question, did the ratatouille lasagna ever get sampled out to the audience? I really really wanted that one, never saw it! But I did get some other yummy things like the salad, and delicious risotto made by Heather Hartman. I was jealous of the tasters on stage though, they got big platefuls! Guess I’ll have to work my way up to taster! It was a lot of fun though.

  2. Melody

    Hey, artsy, be glad that you didn’t taste the ratatouille lasagna. If you had, you would still be thinking…nay, obsessing about it. I had the original at the New Scenic Cafe a week ago, and I WANT IT SO BAD!! Since the recipe is printed in the Minnesota Cooks calender, I plan to try to recreate it soon. Even if my attempt is in the same ballpark as Chef Graden’s, I’ll be one happy gal.

  3. LeeAnn VanDerPol

    What a nice article about the Minnesota Cooks event at the State Fair. Thank you for writing it. The food pictures are amazing; it shows what amazing foods were prepared. It’s been a great event, getting better each year, that promotes Minnesota Grown food and presenting the amazing chefs we have in the state that love to create with what we grow.

Comments are closed.