What is the Hottest Kitchen Entrepreneur Challenge? It is a fantastic opportunity for early stage and startup food businesses in Indiana to have a chance at winning $2,000 in seed money, consultation from Ivy Tech Culinary Center, a shopping spree from Zesco and much more.

The goal of the challenge, promoted throughout the state since March and sponsored by Milwaukee based Reliable Water Services, is to seek out and find the hottest and brightest new food concepts and products in the Hoosier State, which are then scored in a celebrity food judge format.

Judges at the event, chosen by Reliable Water Services, represented the Hoosier food community by providing a diverse and knowledgeable lineup. This year’s judging was conducted by Scott Wise, of Scotty’s Brewhouse, Carrie Abbott of Newfangled Confections, Michael Joy of Park 100 Foods, Chef Ian Kille of MCL Restaurant & Bakery, Jennifer Cheezum of Pierogi in a Pinch, Brian Shapiro of Shapiro’s Deli and Jennifer Rubenstein of Edible Indy. The event was emceed by Indianapolis food writer, Jolene Ketzenberger

In May, the judges reviewed and rated the applications from across the state and from those ratings three finalists in each of the categories, early state and startup, were chosen. The finalists were judged based on concept originality, taste, appearance and marketability of the product. The startup category was for beginning stage businesses, possibly not yet in the market, while the early stage category allowed for businesses to be up and running, some for years. People’s Choice awards were also given.

This year’s finalists ranged from food trucks to shelf ready artisan products with a ready to eat feature – from peanut butter to ketchup boosters, the range was intriguing, tasty and tough to pick a winner. All of the finalists chosen had challenges to overcome, but all were polished, professional and ready to make a leap into the next level of growth.

The three startup finalists were:

Robert Carmack, Indiana Pickle Co.
An Indianapolis based company featuring a combination of his grandmother’s pickling recipe with a twist, local beer and spirits. His goal is to sell his product to boutique retailers, restaurants, farmers’ markets and more.

Ashton Chagee, uFlavor Ketchup Boosters
This company creates booster seasonings for condiments that put consumers in charge of their flavor experience. These are fun to use in recipes, can be sprinkled over rotisserie chicken, scrambled into eggs for spicy breakfast flair, used as a rub on spareribs or sprinkled on popcorn for a new taste treat.

Casey Alexander & Dyke Michaels, Beast Food Truck
A sleek food truck and catering service offering gourmet hamburgers aimed at the underserved Irvington market. The goal is to offer high quality burgers and sides for lunch breaks and special events made with local ingredients such as Fischer Farms’ meats and Amelia’s bread.

The three early stage finalists were:

Jon Weed, B. Happy Peanut Butter
An artisan food product made of peanut butter with honey roasted peanuts and added ingredients like white chocolate and pretzels, milk chocolate and toffee, coconut and almonds, snickerdoodle popcorn, dried cranberries and dark chocolate. It is currently available at boutique food stores and online.

April Richwine, Far Out Fred’s Unique Burgers
A Brownsburg food truck serving 15 gourmet “Fredburgers” featuring the flavors of 15 different countries. The burgers are served open face on scratch made buns using local ingredients when possible such organic, grass-fed beef.

Mark McSweeney, Broad Ripple Potato Chip Co.
A four-year-old company serving crispy regular and sweet potato chips from scratch using russet Idaho baking potatoes which results in a slightly darker, caramelized, more flavorful potato chip. Chips are oversized and lightly seasoned and can be found throughout Central Indiana in grocery stores and markets.

The grand prize winners in each category received:

$2,000 in seed money from Reliable Water Services
$1,000 scholarship and expert consultation from Ivy Tech Corporate College & Culinary Center
$250 shopping spree from Zesco.com
Navigator business plan and marketing plan software from Indiana Small Business Development Center (ISBDC)

And the startup winner received $500 in commercial kitchen time from Carmel’s Kitchen.

In addition, this year Shapiro’s Deli graciously offered two $1,000 cash prizes for the People’s Choice winners in each category.

The winners of this year challenge are:

Startup Grand Prize winner: Robert Carmack, Indiana Pickle Co.

Early Stage Grand Prize winner: Jon Weed (and family), B. Happy Peanut Butter

If you want to know more about the winners, please visit their websites at IndianaPickle.comandBHappyPeanutButter.com.

The People’s Choice winners were Beast Food Truck and B. Happy Peanut Butter.

Edible Indy was proud to be a supporter and judge for this challenge, and we look forward to being a part of the event for 2016. If you are interested in knowing more about how to support this contest, or if you are considering applying next year, please visit: Hottest Kitchen Challenge .

uFlavor Ketchup Boosters Beast Food Truck, the Game Changer burger with local ingredients People's Choice Start Up Winner Broad Ripple Chip Co. Sweet Potato chips Far-Out-Fred's international open face burgers Robert Carmack, Startup Grand Prize Winner B Happy Peanut Butter, Early Stage and People's Choice Winners

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