• A/S/L
  • Hoosier Mama’s “chawanmushi” with dried shrimp, porcini mushrooms, midwestern kimchi, and dried-shrimp kettle corn

Last Friday night, 26 of Chicago’s best chefs and scads of you nice, attractive people (see here) gathered at the Bridgeport Art Center for a little culinary symbiosis in the name of adventure. We called it the Key Ingredient Cook-Off. Basically, it was a live, interactive take on our popular (and award-winning) Key Ingredient series. We challenged chefs to come up with creative and delicious ways to prepare one of five predetermined ingredients: durian, dried shrimp, celery, millet, and Malort.

The resulting dishes were better than we ever could have imagined. The free cocktails and the music weren’t bad either.

It wasn’t easy (and I’m not just saying that), but a panel of Reader staffers conferred and selected a winning dish for each ingredient, as well as an overall winner who we really thought had outdone himself.

The prizes: A donation is being made in each of the chefs’ names to the Healthy Schools Campaign. Also bragging rights.

Without further ado . . .