Got a good hot dish recipe? Hotdish and Bars Takedown event coming soon to St. Paul


Want to have one last very Minnesota experience as we finally, hopefully say "get the hell outta here" to this epically long winter? Then mark your calendars for next Sunday, April 13 from 2 to 4 p.m., when Matt Timms will host a Hot Dish and Bars Takedown at O'Gara's in St. Paul.

Just what is a Takedown? You might already be familiar with the concept as Timms hosted a bacon-themed one at the Fine Line back in 2013, but if not, it's basically a non-professional cooking competition, open to the public both to participate or just attend (and eat), based around a single ingredient or dish. There have been mac-and-cheese takedowns, avocado ones, chili ones, curry ones, and ice cream ones -- held in cities across the United States. Timms felt it was about time to do a takedown unique to this region, and we caught up with him briefly to talk about the competition and convince him that bars are indeed "a thing."

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Hot Dish: How did you get started doing these events?

Matt Timms: They started in my apartment, actually. I got small groups together and that expanded and we started holding them in these small bars in Brooklyn, where I am based. Now we do them all over the place -- Milwaukee, Las Vegas, Boston, Chicago...all over. 

HD: What inspired you to do this particular event?

MT: I just wanted to come back to Minneapolis and I wanted to do something without sponsors. The Bacon Takedowns are great events. I do those as a partnership with Hormel and that really means they get great turnout, plus everyone loves bacon. But this is the first time that we have really done the regional food in the city where we are having the Takedown. I just wanted to do an event that really resonated with people. I'm on your home turf, you know? so I want to see Minnesotans getting really Minnesota-y.

HD: Are there specific categories that the judges will follow when they're evaluating dishes?

MT: I leave it up to the individual judges. I think creativity, presentation, and taste are really the basics. But truly these are no-rules events. They had to sort of be that way. When I did the Chili Takedowns, people just had such a broad interpretation of what chili can be that we kept it pretty loose. We also have a people's choice award, so the judges' opinions aren't the only ones that matter. We give away three prizes in both the judges' and people's choice categories. It's like really good cookware -- Wusthof knives and stuff.

HD: Can people who want to enter the competition make both hotdishes and bars?

MT: I would love it if people did both! But I get that some people want to keep specialized and focus on one or the other. Plus it's only a two-hour event. It's not huge. We have about 14 contestants now and we max out at 30 because I don't want to burden that home cook. It's lame to ask them to do more in their own home kitchens just because, like, I want to make more money. What I really like is learning about all the different regional culinary stuff. Are bars really a big thing?

HD: Oh absolutely. A pan of bars is a very big deal.

MT: Cool! I'm excited to see what that will look like! Some cities aren't as much fun as others, but St. Paul and Minneapolis have always been a ball. I like to have excuses to come back so hopefully this Hotdish and Bars Takedown can become an annual thing.

To enter the Takedown as a competitor, email [email protected] and chat with Matt for more details. For more information or to purchase advance tickets for $15 (tickets will also be available at the door) visit

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