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Inaugural Maryland Foodie Fest to feature everything from crab cakes to cook-offs

Inaugural Maryland Foodie Fest to feature everything from crab cakes to cook-offs
Kaimana Chee, owner of Uncle's Hawaiian Grindz in Fallston, is one of several chefs participating in cooking competitions at the June 22 Maryland Foodie Festival at Ripken Stadium in Aberdeen. (Barbara Haddock Taylor / Baltimore Sun file)

Marshall Weston describes the Maryland Foodie Fest as a food lover’s dream.

Restaurants, food trucks, breweries and distilleries will pack Ripken Stadium in Aberdeen on June 22, offering samples of their best dishes and drinks, said Weston, president and CEO of the Restaurant Association of Maryland, which is hosting the event.

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“We’re gonna have options that range from crab cake or crab balls to Italian pastas to tuna tartare to a whole host of different things that you just don’t see at most festivals,” Weston said.

That’s not to say the event won’t include more traditional festival fare, such as fried Oreos and cotton candy, he said.

Festival-goers will be able to pair restaurant samples, which they’ll pay for with tickets they receive with admission, with unlimited samples of beers and wines, Weston said.

General admission for individuals over the age of 21 cost $39 online and $49 at the door, according to the festival’s website. There are also lower-priced tickets for younger participants and a VIP ticket that offers more samplings and cooking demonstrations. Children age 12 and under are free.

Participating restaurants include well-known favorites like Phillips Seafood as well as smaller eateries like RockSalt Grille in Westminster, Weston said.

The new festival will more or less take over Ripken Stadium, Weston said, offering live music and a kids zone with inflatables, face-painting and batting cages.

Visitors will be able to spend time on the field, he added, and maybe even spread out a picnic blanket to enjoy their foods and drinks, as well as the three bands planned for the day.

Nicole Youse, the owner of Crossroads Bistro in Bel Air, is participating in the burger and seafood cooking competitions hosted at the festival, where she’ll compete for a “Golden Ticket” to the World Food Championships in Dallas this October. Open to professional and home chefs, this will be the only cooking competition in Maryland sanctioned by the World Food Championships, organizers said.

Youse plans to make a burger that plays off of the restaurant’s Cuban sandwich, as well as fish tacos.

She has the World Food Championships in her sights because a mentor of hers, Tommy D’Ambriosio, the executive chef of Aioli Gourmet Burgers in Arizona, won sixth place in the burger competition last year.

“It would just be really fun to go head-to-head with him because we’ve always been on the same team more or less,” Youse said.

Kaimana Chee, owner of Uncle’s Hawaiian Grindz in Fallston, will also be participating in the cook-offs, he said.

Chee, who’s starred on Masterchef, Guy’s Grocery Games and Cutthroat Kitchen, is planning to prepare a Hawaiian take on soft shell crabs, as well as a Hawaiian-style burger, which he said could feature fruits, pulled pork, and ingredients like sesame and ginger.

The festival will be Chee’s latest stop during his travels around the world as an ambassador for a global food technology company. He’s visited 30 countries over the past year as part of his job, so he’d be excited to bring those experiences, alongside his Hawaiian roots, to the World Food Championship later this year.

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“The thing about cooking, the impact around you never stops,” he said. “To take all of that with me to the food championships would be really special.”

The proceeds from the day will go back to the restaurant association, and much of the funds will benefit the association’s foundation, a group called ProStart, a training program for high school students with an interest in the culinary field.

Youse said her husband, who co-owns Crossroads Bistro with her, participated in the program as a high school student.

“He’s pretty excited that we get to help them in that manner,” Youse said.

To purchase tickets and for more information, visit the website at www.marylandfoodiefest.com and Facebook page at www.facebook.com/marylandfoodiefest.

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