Minnesota Cooks Live!

As anyone who has hung out with me for more than an hour or two can attest to, I have a bit of an impulse control problem. This can get me into some interesting situations… Interesting is good. Last spring, I wandered up to a table that Green Routes had set up at the Living Green Expo. I’m chatty, so I chatted with the lady for a bit, liked what they were doing, so I said, “I like what you’re doing. I do interactive marketing and design – you need any help in that area?” Needless to say, they did.

One thing led to another and soon I was designing and programming a website for Minnesota Cooks. This seemed like a good project for me to work on as I’m working on starting a business (Yours4Food.com) that specializes in web strategy/design/programming/content development for folks in the food, nutrition and health industries.

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Superior fisherman, Steve Dahl. (I did a bit of photography too.)

Minnesota Cooks is a joint project between Renewing the Countryside (the fine folks that bring you Green Routes), Food Alliance Midwest and Minnesota Farmers Union to highlight the relationships of chefs with local farmers/producers who supply them and to share their collaboration foods with the rest of us cooker types to make at home. Their main product for the year is a calendar that is filled with excellent photography, profiles on chefs and their producers as well as a recipe for each month. The calender coincides with an event at the Minnesota State Fair where they have demos given by chefs creating these recipes. So, I was charged with creating a website to support these activities. That’s just what I did.

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Ta da! The 2006 chef page featuring Joan Ida, Nathalie Johnson, Scott Pampuch and JD Fratzke.

While we have some lofty goals for what this site can become – for the moment v.1 really is all about the chef – producer – home cook connection. The navigation of these relationships is the main story. Thus, the whole thing becomes a very simple framework to serve that purpose. The design itself is based on the calendar. The calendar’s primary focus is photography placed on a very stable grid system that hangs off of a large squareish image. I decided to use that to create a very simple, but more aggressive grid structure for the layout. I also decided to have more fun with the photos in that space. For the techie stuff – it’s php running on a mysql database with some flashity-flash for the intro.

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Chef Graden flashes his pearly whites to the cheering crowd.

The web site was done by the time of the big event at the state fair. (Yea!) The event itself showcases the talents of 14 chefs representing excellent restaurants from around the state. The chefs create their dishes while chatting with hosts Brenda Langton, Scott Pampuch and Andrew Zimmern about their commitment to using the finest local ingredients and sustainability. On the eat local topic, Chef Scott Graden is quoted as saying, “If I can get fish from the guy that smells like fish, that’s pretty cool.” (To me he added, “Seriously, he reeks of fish. I love that.”)

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Herring cakes courtesy of the efforts of Graden & Dahl.

One recurring subject at the event was the farms and orchards damaged by the recent floods in southern MN. Scott Pampuch of Corner Table and JD Fratzke of Muffuletta are involved in organizing an September 8 restaurant event where profits will be donated to the Winona County Red Cross and others for relief efforts. JD also spoke very eloquently about need for more help in those areas. Needless to say organizations there are overwhelmed with requests and the federal aid isn’t nearly adequate. He suggested getting together cleanup supplies (buckets, boots and cleansers) and basic living items (batteries, toilet paper and plastic totes) and taking them to the Winona Econo Food Location Donation Coordinator between the hours of 9am and 7pm. For more information there are hotlines, call: 507-457-8858 or 507-457-8859.

So, to sum up:
:: Winona County Red Cross
:: More help information
:: September 8 fund raiser participating restaurants

:: Find out more about the farms affected
:: Get your MN Cooks calendar ($10)
:: Check out some more of my photos of the MN State Fair, Duluth and Graden & Dahl

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