On Sunday, 12 local chefs will compete to win this trophy. (It's a mushroom. We promise.)

Chef Jim Christiansen of Heyday (left), 2015 winner of the "Golden Morel," which is definitely what that trophy is.

Chef Jim Christiansen of Heyday (left), 2015 winner of the "Golden Morel," which is definitely what that trophy is. Jennifer Simonson Photography

It’s a cooking competition, it’s a celebration of Minnesota’s native ingredients, it’s a bluegrass concert, and most of all, it looks to be a really good time: The third annual Wild Food Fandango is coming to St. Paul’s Keg and Case Market this Sunday.

Produced by Mike Kempenich, Gentleman Forager and owner of wild-food grocer Forest to Fork, the cooking competition will feature 12 local chefs including Paul Baker of Hyacinth and Daniel Cataldo of Wayzata's ninetwentyfive.

To create their dishes, chefs will pick from a list of foraged ingredients supplied by Forest to Fork. “The chefs have a list of at least 100 items to select from,” Kempenich explains. “Mushrooms alone, they have 20 different species.” The possibilities also include ramps, watercress, berries, wild rice, and wild parsnips. Foraged ingredients will be supplemented by proteins from sponsor RJ’s Meats.

After sampling the dishes, attendees can cast a vote for their favorite, and the biggest crowd pleaser takes home the “infamous” Golden Morel trophy.

Why infamous? “It’s three feet tall, and sculpted in the form of a morel mushroom called the peckerhead,” Kempenich explains. “It’s slightly phallic looking.”

Trophy aside, the atmosphere is family-friendly, with bluegrass from Joseph Huber and The May North with Ryan Acker of the The Last Revel. The event is also inclusive to various dietary preferences.

“There’s something for everyone—if you’re a vegetarian, vegan, pescatarian, we’ve got you covered,” says Kempenich. “It’s a lot of fun when dedicated meat eaters discover dishes without meat that are unbelievably delicious.”

“A lot of people may be intimated to go to restaurants and order things they might not be able to pronounce,” he continues. “This is a way to enjoy that sort of food in a non-threatening atmosphere. There will outdoors people, foodie people, music people—we really draw in some interesting people.”

Tickets are available for pre-purchase online as well as at the door. General admission tickets are $45 and include food samples and live music; VIP tickets are $95 and offer early entry, swag, cocktails, and a chef meet and greet. Everyone is welcome to attend Fandango Fest ‘19, a free concert that kicks off at 4:30 p.m. with performances by Black River Revue, Kind Country, and Big Wu.

“Part of the attraction is to pay $45 and get a 12-course tasting menu—you can enjoy elevated food at a reasonable price,” says Kempenich. “Put on your dancing shoes, have a beer or have a pop—whatever turns you on—and meet some really great chefs.”

Wild Food Fandango
Keg and Case Market Park
Sunday, June 9, 2019
1:00 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.