The Hottest Kitchen Entrepreneur Challenge sponsored by Reliable Water Services and Ivy Tech Community College took place again this year, on June 22, at Ivy Tech Corporate College and Culinary Center located at 2820 N. Meridian Street. In its fifth year, it proved to yet again be a success. The competition uses judges experienced in food and the food industry to choose one winner in two categories: startup and early stage. Edible Indy’s Jennifer Rubenstein was honored to judge this event alongside Ian Kille (MCL Restaurant and Bakery), John Benjamin (Scotty’s Brewhouse), Carrie Abbott (Newfangled Confections), Brian Shapiro (Shapiro’s Delicatessen) and Michael Joy (Park 100 Foods). The event emcee was Jolene Ketzenberger.

The first category, Startup, showcases just what you’re thinking—those very new to the food industry—the second category, Early Stage, focuses on those individuals with 5 or more years in the industry.

This year, the three finalists in the startup were: Robbybaby’s Kitchen (jams and jellies), Papa Doc’s Sausage Gravy and Primal Delights Kombucha. Those in the early stage category were: Indiana Craft Jerky, Batch No. 2 (mustards) and Lemon Tree Cookies. All businesses are based out of Indianapolis except Indiana Craft Jerky, which is based out of Avon.

Judges first tried all of the finalists’ products, then deliberated and finally came to the judging floor to ask the owners questions about their businesses while the audience tested everything being discussed. Judges were then sequestered to make final decisions.

And it wasn’t hard for audience members to feel connected to these local product makers—after all, most have finally made the plunge to turn their passion into a full-time reality, but not without a story.

“It all started with an Easy Bake Oven…” said Robin Willis, ofRobbybaby’s Kitchen.

“This is a tradition I’ve carried on from my stepdad who passed away 23 years ago,” said Jack Lasich, who makes his beloved stepdad’s gravy recipe.

“Food and beautiful things are what it takes to make an occasion,” said Abby Reckard of Lemon Tree Cookies. She and her mom make the cookies, and then her mom decorates them with precision and beauty.

In the end, Primal Delights took home top honors for the Startup category and Batch No. 2 claimed the Early Stage prize. Indiana Craft Jerky, a company that made $30,000 the first year they took their product to market, won People’s Choice.

Besides bragging rights, winners took home the following:

$2,000 in seed money from Reliable Water Services to start their business

$1,000 scholarship from Ivy Tech Community College.

$250 shopping spree from, restaurant supply.

A spotlight inEdible Indymagazine.

Two People’s Choice winners will receive $1,000 each from Shapiro’s Deli.

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