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Thiensville contest tries to find its 'best dam chef'

His table set for the judges, Marc Mrugala prepares components for his grilled cheese with corn salsa dip entry to the Best Dam Chef competition at the Thiensville Farmers Market on Tuesday.

His table set for the judges, Marc Mrugala prepares components for his grilled cheese with corn salsa dip entry to the Best Dam Chef competition at the Thiensville Farmers Market on Tuesday. Photo By C.T. Kruger

Aug. 21, 2013

Thiensville — For now, organic farmer and Thiensville Village Market vendor Scott Kelley is Thiensville's "Best Dam Chef."

Kelley's dish, grilled salmon topped with dill cucumber sauce, served with white corn salsa, won top marks Tuesday from "celebrity judges" Thiensville Police Chief Scott Nicholson, village Trustee Ken Kucharski and Public Works Director Andy LaFond, who stayed at Kelley's table after the judging to wolf down his whole portion.

Alongside Thiensville Business Association President Marc Mrugala, Remington's River Inn Chef Carl Lundberg, Core Consulting co-owner Matthew Buerosse, and Albert Yee, owner of downtown Cedarburg restaurant Kalua, Kelley went on a 90-minute journey to make a tantalizing dish with only $30 worth of wares from the Village Market. The "secret ingredient" required to be in each dish this week was corn. Having won the preliminary contest, Kelley moves on to the finals Sept. 17 against the winners of four upcoming, five-contestant preliminaries which will take place each Tuesday for the next four weeks at the Village Market.

The final will determine once and for all who is Thiensville's "Best Dam Chef," a tongue-in-cheek accolade named for the Village Market's proximity to the Mequon-Thiensville dam.

"It's been an idea we had from the beginning. We wanted it to be fun," said TBA member and Village Market volunteer Jesse Daily, who cheerfully emceed the contest Tuesday, occasionally ribbing the contestants to the amusement of the crowd. "The key thing is that the market foods are so flexible. That you can go from the farm to the table."

Flexibility was on display as Mrugala made a zesty grilled cheese packed with corn, served with a side of baked zucchini, Lundberg whipped up pan-seared trout with white wine sauce, heirloom tomatoes, stuffed focaccia and corn succotash, Buerosse created a corn, bacon and hotdog hash on buckwheat crepes, and Yee delivered "horny, corny" fried French toast, presented with blooming red peppers and a carved carrot.

Having won the first round, Kelley said he's confident for the upcoming final in September.

"I'll be ready," Kelley said. "I just try to do the best I can."

IF YOU GO

WHAT: Thiensville Best Dam Chef contest

WHEN: Preliminaries: Aug. 27, Sep. 3, Sep. 10; Final Sep. 17. All contests from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

WHERE: Thiensville Village Market, 250 Elm Street

MORE INFO: Search "Thiensville Farmers Market" on facebook

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