For 85 episodes since late 2010, the Chicago Reader's James Beard Foundation Award-winning series Key Ingredient has thrown one Chicago chef after another a curveball in the form of a strange ingredient picked by one of their colleagues, with the challenge to make something tasty out of it. A crowd of around 300 people came out Friday night for the Reader's Cook Off event, in which 25 chefs (almost all past participants) whipped up exotic things using five iconic previous Key Ingredients— the famously stinky Asian fruit durian, another common Asian ingredient, dried shrimp, Chicago cult liquor Malort, birdseed-more-than-human-food millet, and... celery (some of the best episodes have challenged chefs to do something new with something prosaic like that). Here's our slideshow of the event, which benefited Healthy Schools Campaign, including many of the best bites.
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