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Contact: Christel Henke, Reliable Water Services, 
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Finalists Announced for Local Kitchen Entrepreneur Challenge
Culinary experiments led to tasty, original food biz concepts

June 11, 2014

Sometimes it takes years to get a recipe just right. This year’s finalists showed a determination and creative culinary concepts that impressed the Hottest Kitchen Entrepreneur Challenge judges. This challenge to find Wisconsin’s next great start-up and early stage food entrepreneurs is sponsored by Milwaukee Area Technical College (MATC), Reliable Water Services, a local provider of commercial water heaters, boilers and water softeners, and FaB Wisconsin, an industry network for the food and beverage cluster in Wisconsin. 

Start-up finalists include:

• Mary Pellettieri – Milwaukee, Wis. – Top Note Tonics – Biz concept: non-alcoholic aperitivo sodas featuring top note flavors such as lemon, orange, vanilla, clove and ginger. Delicious as-is but also great blended with spirits. The goal is to see Top Note Tonic on high-end restaurant menus as well as having it packaged as a carbonated soft drink.

• Jennifer Goldbeck – Cedarburg, Wis. – Packaged European Buttercream – Biz concept: create a shelf stable delicious vanilla buttercream that is unlike the canned frosting found in the grocery aisle. It will be easy and quick for the home baker to reproduce and customize. Goal is to create a packaged product available at grocery and specialty stores.

• Nicole Meredith – Milwaukee, Wis. –Wilhemena’s Pies – Biz concept: Create a variety of handcrafted gourmet pecan pies in original flavors such as Great Lakes Distillery’s Kinnickinnic whiskey, Butterfinger pecan pie and coffee pecan pie. The goal is to sell at farmer’s markets, sell online and eventually own a food truck dedicated to selling pies throughout the greater Milwaukee area. 

Early-stage finalists include:

• Jackie Valent Lucca – Brookfield, Wis. – Love Dust® – A line of international spice blends (MSG free, gluten free, no artificial ingredients) that add global flair to everyday foods; accessible to both the novice cook and the experienced foodie. Challenges include determining how to launch the product and distribute to local and regional outlets as well as marketing the product with limited funds. 

• Austin Ashley, Hallie Ashley and Zac Mathes - Viroqua, Wis. -  Wisco Pop! –Craft brewed soda featuring fresh fruit juice, pure Wisco honey, & genuine herbs and spices for a real Wisconsin brew. Offered in three distinct flavors Ginger Brew, Door County Cherry Bomb, and Root Beer. Currently available in 40 locations throughout Viroqua, Madison, and Milwaukee. Challenges include meeting single serve demand and increasing production capacity., WI.

• Robin Wright – Dousman, Wis. – PoSaNa Organics-PoSaNa Organics- Selling organic, gluten-free cooking and baking mixes using nutrient-dense almond and coconut flours. Offering unique, healthy, and delicious bakery items such as Deep Chocolate Almond Flour Cupcakes (sweetened with pure maple syrup) with Rishi Masala Chai-infused butter cream frosting. Challenges include securing funding for working capital, expansion into co-packing, and labor costs for the new bakery division. 

Start-up and Early Stage finalists will compete for the grand prize in a Food Network-style judging event at MATC’s student-operated 6th Street Café located at 1015 N. 6th St. on the Downtown Milwaukee Campus on Thursday, July 17th at Noon. 

The grand prize winner in each category will receive $2,000 in seed money from Reliable to start their business; comprehensive entrepreneurial consultation package from MATC; a private meeting with food industry executives serving on FaB Wisconsin’s advisory council and funding and growth consultation with financial specialists at MW Growth Partners.

Judges for the contest include:  
  • Kurt Fogle, executive pastry chef, SURG Restaurant Group
  • Jan Kelly, owner and chef, Meritage restaurant 
  • Angela West, co-founder/publisher, Alcoholmanac Magazine 
  • Lynn Sbonik, co-owner, Beans & Barley Deli, Market & Full Service Café 
  • Eric Olesen, co-owner and president, O&H Danish Bakery of Racine 
  • Jen Ede, publisher, Edible Milwaukee magazine 
  • Daphne Jones, owner, Glorious Malone's Fine Sausages. 
  • Rakesh (Ryan) Rehan, owner, Café India 

“These finalists stood out as having unique and appealing concepts that we felt could really succeed in a competitive marketplace,” said Kurt Fogle, contest judge. 

For more information, visit Reliable Water Services at www.hotwater247.com.