Heard on the Hill

Emmer Wins First Franken-less Minnesota Hotdish Competition

Sen. Tina Smith took over as host of the 8th annual event

Minnesota congressional delegation members, from left, Reps. Jason Lewis, Erik Paulsen, Keith Ellison, Tim Walz, and Betty McCollum, and Sen. Tina Smith pose for a selfie Wednesday during the eighth annual Minnesota Congressional Delegation Hotdish Competition. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Rep. Tom Emmer’s “Hotdish of Champions” won the eighth annual Minnesota Congressional Delegation Hotdish Competition on Wednesday.

He was originally tied for first with Rep. Rick Nolan’s “Last Dish Effort” — aptly named because the congressman is retiring after this term — but the master of ceremonies, MinnPost Washington bureau chief Sam Brodey, broke the tie. 

Third place went to Rep. Betty McCollum’s “SPAM Good Hotdish.”

Emmer is the first Republican sole winner of the event. Former GOP Rep. Chip Cravaack shared the 2012 crown with Sen. Al Franken

Franken started the event eight years ago. But with his resignation in December in the face of sexual misconduct allegations, this year’s hosting duties fell to the woman who replaced him: Sen. Tina Smith

Smith, a former Minnesota lieutenant governor, was aware of the competition before coming to the Senate. 

“I was always just a little bit jealous that I couldn’t be a part of it because we didn’t have such a thing at the Statehouse,” she said.

“It’s fun for all of us, my Minnesota colleagues and I, to get together and just tease and joke around. It was a lot of fun,” she said.

While French President Emmanuel Macron’s speech to Congress was still underway, members of the Minnesota delegation started filtering into the room in Dirksen determined to go ahead with the much-loved event.

UNITED STATES - APRIL 25: Staffers uncover the dishes during the eighth annual Minnesota Congressional Delegation Hotdish Competition in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Wednesday, April 25, 2018. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Staffers uncover the entries from members of the Minnesota congressional delegation. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

They kicked off several minutes later than the scheduled 11:30 a.m. start time once all but one of the lawmakers were there. Sen. Amy Klobuchar arrived late because of Macron’s speech. Her “Gold Medal Curling Hotdish” was a nod to one of the judges, Phill Drobnick, coach of the gold medal-winning U.S. Men’s Olympic curling team.

Even without funny man Franken, there were still a few laughs to go around.

Rep. Tim Walz, a three-time champion at the competition, entered the room followed by three staffers holding up engraved glass dishes, his trophies from previous years. 

“Not very Minnesota of me,” he joked, alluding to the legendary niceness of people from his home state. Walz is not seeking re-election this year as he pursues a bid for governor. 

Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minn., left, speaks with judge Phil Drobnick, coach of the US Olympic gold medal curling team, at the eighth annual Minnesota Congressional Delegation Hotdish Competition in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Wednesday, April 25, 2018. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Rep. Tim Walz speaks with judge Phil Drobnick, coach of the gold medal-winning U.S. Olympic curling team, and a resident of Eveleth, Minn. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Entries were judged on a 20-point scale. A dish received 10 points for taste, 5 points for originality and 5 points for presentation. Each hotdish also had to include a protein, dairy, starch and a Minnesota ingredient.

UNITED STATES - APRIL 25: Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., wears a apron while holding a spatula during the eighth annual Minnesota Congressional Delegation Hotdish Competition in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Wednesday, April 25, 2018. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Rep. Keith Ellison gets ready to start dishing up some hotdish. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

While dishing the food, Rep. Keith Ellison sported a white apron with green trimming. Smith also wore an apron for the event’s tasting portion. Nolan’s dish featured a rubber duck on it, to represent the common loon, the Minnesota state bird.

Previous winners of the competition have included Klobuchar (2011), Franken and Cravaack (2012), Walz (2013, 2014 and 2016), McCollum (2015) and Rep. Collin C. Peterson (2017).

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