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Ellee Clausen is pictured two years ago with her first Top Chef entry, a strawberry chunk macadamia nut cookie. She took second place in the division for kids 10- years-old and younger. Bulletin file photo

Strawberries key in Cottage Grove's Top Chef Contest

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Strawberries key in Cottage Grove's Top Chef Contest
Cottage Grove Minnesota 7584 80th Street South 55016

In its fifth year, the Top Chef Contest continues to draw local residents with their best recipes that contain strawberries. From salsa to strawberry cole slaw, this Strawberry Fest contest is dominated by home cooking.

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Youth participation is welcome and encouraged, according to Linda Tennis, who came up with the idea to have a contest and teamed up with Anchor Bank of St. Paul Park.

Ellee Clausen, of Cottage Grove, likes to cook and entered her first Top Chef contest two years ago when she was 7. Competing in the division for youth 10 and younger, Clausen made a strawberry chip macadamia nut cookie. The large, frosted cookie had the Strawberry Fest logo on it and she took second place.

Dishes in her category and that for youth from 11 to 17 years old are of their own choice.

Clausen said that throughout the year she thinks about what dish she'll make for the next competition.

"You have to do something original that no one else has thought of," she said in a recent interview.

Last year, she made a strawberry pizza that won her first place in her division. She got a bank card for $100, a Top Chef apron and a medal.

All winners get the same prize, with $50 and a medal for second place and $35 and a medal for third place. Fourth- and fifth-place winners get ribbons.

Over two years, Clausen has learned some of the language of cooking such as "drizzling" white and milk chocolate over her strawberry pizza, which helped her win.

"It wasn't overpowering," she said.

Although she won't disclose what she'll enter this year, "I'm so excited for the contest," she said.

Clausen, a fifth-grade Spanish immersion student, is considering becoming a chef.

The contest starts at 5 p.m., Friday, June 14, in Kingston Park. There's no admission and the public is welcome to watch the judging and sample the offerings afterward at no cost.

The youth division for those 11 and over that Clausen will compete in next year is an open category or "chef's choice." but there are specific divisions for the adults including appetizer or side dish, main dish, breads, cakes and pies and desserts.

Adults are allowed one entry per class and each entry in a category has a $5 fee.

Dishes must be in disposable containers. If entries must be served hot or cold, the entrant must bring the appropriate equipment with them because there is not electricity at the judging.

Local judges, who are not trained chefs, critique entries on appearance, taste, creativity and overall appeal.

For information, go to cottagegrovestrawberryfest.com.

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Judy Spooner
Judy Spooner is the longest-serving staff writer at the South Washington County Bulletin. Spooner, who covers education and features in addition to writing a weekly column, has been with the newspaper for over 30 years.
(651) 459-7600
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