Have you ever watched shows like 'Chopped' and thought, Hey, I can do that? Well, now you can! The newest, hottest culinary competition experience in Portland, Maine opened a few months ago, and from my own night spent at Fyood Kitchen I can say this: Get ready to laugh, sweat, and, most importantly, eat.

Earlier this month I was fortunate enough to be invited to try this amazing interactive event with a group of my own friends (note - this makes an excellent gift for Christmas, birthdays, parties and work events... receiving this opportunity to spend time with loved ones in a unique environment will make just about anyone happy). Here's how it went:

The Cooking

After arriving, we spent some time all getting to know each other a little better, as well as filled out waivers (and sipped plenty of wine). Then we headed upstairs to the kitchen, where, after a brief tour, four mystery ingredients awaited: In our case, cauliflower, sharp white cheddar, a sweet and spicy barbecue sauce, and graham crackers were on the menu. 

When the clock started, my team took a moment to plan, deciding right away to make a spicy BBQ mac n' cheese with a crumble topping and a salad on the side to freshen things up. Then we divided and conquered, each one of us grabbing what we needed to complete our portion of the meal. My significant other chopped veggies while one of his closest friends prepared the salad and pasta, and I worked on the cheese sauce.

Sure, trying to compose eleven plates in forty-five minutes (which go by way faster than you'd think) was hectic, but having all of our tasks decided upon really helped us focus and execute our initial dish idea (just in case any of you are taking notes for future-reference). 

And, of course, fun was the main theme coursing through the night! The competitive atmosphere had nothing on our bright spirits and hungry bellies.

When the cooking time was up, we delivered our dishes back downstairs, where everyone got to present theirs as teams and then come together as a whole group to feast. Here were the results!

The Eating

Sam, our coordinator and a Fyood Kitchen veteran, along with her team came up with this politically-and-open-minded meal consisting of a beef and candied bacon taco with homemade salsa, cauliflower rice, and one of the best cool cheese sauces I have ever tasted. Despite many changes in plans, the participants on this team came together to create the most visually-stunning dish of the night, one which everyone appreciated the daring creativity of. 

Next we had the parents' team dish, which everyone felt immediate nostalgia for due to its likeness to one parent's nearly-famous alfredo recipe. They topped the mounds of glorious, cheesy rice noodles with graham-coated chicken and put tangy balsamic roasted veggies on the side, presenting a dish which truly represented its name, "Comfort."

Last came our dish, which I must say looked phenomenal in its professional photo-op. While we did end up winning the competition, it wasn't by much - our votes ended up placing all three teams within just three points of each other.

I think what really helped us toward victory was our contrast of the salty, creamy, slightly spicy noodles and their toasty topping with the acidic and crisp bite of the arugula and green apple salad. Our team agreed that we would have added more color and spice to the dish the next time around, but other than that, we were so pleased with our experience and what we were able to create together. 

Do It Yourself!

Want to book your own Fyood experience? Visit their website or their Facebook for all of the details on how to participate, what to expect, and inspiration for what you could be making and presenting to your own friends and family the next time you're in Portland!

Kayleigh Bounds

Did I mention that, if you and your team wins, you'll receive your own Fyood spoons? Maybe I'm biased, but this experience made me only want to cook, eat, and spend time with my friends and family more, and I couldn't think of a better or more innovative place to do so!

Thanks again to Maddie and Fluffy (Tim) at Fyood Kitchen for such a friendly environment and fun-loving energies, as well as my buddy Sam for the amazing Christmas gift which made this all possible and my whole Portland-area family for such an unforgettable night.