When it comes to culinary competition, Kenosha takes the cake — as well as the cupcakes, pies and doughnuts.
At this year’s Midwest Foodservice Expo, downtown businesses and an area high school competed for top honors in cooking and baking.
Elsie Mae’s Canning and Pies, 5819 Sixth Ave., took first place honors in the Best of the Midwest Pie Contest, sponsored by the Wisconsin Bakers Association, with two pies: Belgian Chocolate Raspberry Pie and Strawberry Rhubarb Pie.
Local baker Martha Perez entered a bacon maple cupcake, which was stuffed in the middle with a pecan pie made by Elsie Mae’s. This combination won second place in the Crazy Cupcake category for Wisconsin’s Top Cupcake.
Mike’s Donuts and Chicken, 717 56th St., also brought it home for Kenosha, taking second place in Wisconsin’s Ultimate Donut Duel with its glazed raised yeast-lemon Girl Scout Cookie doughnut.
It also entered, but did not win, with a peanut-coated Bismarck filled with jelly made by Elsie Mae’s.
Win or lose, getting there was half the fun, said Elsie Mae’s co-owner, Kelly Deem.
Deem and apprentice baker Marina Modica, 19, a recent graduate of Tremper High School, had entered three pies each. Entering as a beginner/apprentice baker, Modica submitted an apple-peanut butter pie, a strawberry lemonade pie and a berry cherry pie; in the professional category, Deem submitted Mermaid Pie, Strawberry Rhubarb and Belgian Chocolate.
Last year was the first time Deem entered contests in pies and cakes at the expo, taking first and second place with her pies.
Deem and cake decorator and collaborator Perez also competed in Clash of the Cakes, a live demo for which they had five hours to create three elaborate cakes in the categories of Wedding, Fondant and Sculpted. They competed against two other teams of professional bakers.
Deem and Perez’ entries were a pink fondant cake, a mermaid-themed sculpted cake and a wedding cake in a musical theme featuring a yellow cello on top of a piano.
Perez, a Kenosha cake baker and decorator (Marty’s Cakes), assisted Deem at the expo.
“Martha loves fondant,” Deem noted.
Although their cakes placed third overall, Deem and Perez said a good time was had by all. “Highlights (of the expo) for me was seeing these professionals that make these beautiful cakes,” Perez said. “They do this for a living 10 hours a day. I make cakes as a side job — I’m a surgical nurse by trade. Kelly and I had a great experience!”
In a text after judging last Monday, Deem wrote: “Kenosha killed it!;)”
Also in competition was Westosha Central High School. Culinary instructor Cheryl Halladay led the five-student brigade in the ProStart Invitational against high school teams from 19 other schools, placing eighth. Last year’s ranking was sixth out of 22 schools.
It was the eighth year the school’s culinary department entered the competition. The menu included Smoked Lake Trout Croquette, Pan Seared Beef Tenderloin and Deep Fried Apple Pie, prepared on site during a limited time frame.
“The students were very pleased with some results of the meal, but a few things went wrong, causing frustration as well,” Halladay said. “Overall, it was a great learning experience.”
Edible offerings from our area — both those that found their way to the winners’ circle and those that didn’t — put this community on the map, say Expo participants.
“I love the collaboration and bringing Kenosha to the table,” Deem said.