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“Many of us are in the audience when it comes to food,” says Maddie Purcell of Portland. “We’re surrounded by amazing food [restaurants], but we’re not participating in the creative side of food culture.”

In October 2016, Purcell founded Fyood (pronounced fyūd). Part food fight, part kitchen-feud foodie event, Fyood flips the paradigm of dining out as a spectator sport on its head by putting attendees either in the kitchen or at the table as critics.

Participants compete to prepare the best dishes from a box of mystery ingredients during a Fyood event at Fork Food Lab in Portland. Fyood is part food competition, part cooking fun. Photo by Tim Cardoso

Purcell and her friends had been hosting Chopped-inspired parties of their own. Rather than going to dinner, she and her friends would create and cook delicious food from a combination of mystery ingredients. The lighthearted competition led her to think about food and cooking in a completely new way.

“It’s too easy for cooking to become a chore for people, and there is fun to be had with food,” says Purcell. “We’re not having as much fun in the kitchen as we should. Our aim is to help people find that fun.”

Photo by Tim Cardoso

Held at Portland’s Fork Food Lab, interested participants sign up as either chefs or judges. No experience is necessary, though for chefs, Purcell jokingly adds, it is helpful if “people know which end of the knife goes in their hand and which end goes in the food.” Fyood provides the professional kitchen, a fully stocked pantry and four mystery ingredients per round. The evening consists of two rounds in which chefs are challenged to make something savory and something sweet.

“Fyood’s goal is to have people look at food in a new way and have fun cooking (or eating) something that might be outside their comfort zone,” says Purcell. “Over 90 percent of cooks at Fyood make something they never made before and didn’t know they could. The increased confidence gained from breaking their kitchen comfort zone inspires them to have more fun and think more creatively in and out of the kitchen.”

Fyood events have quickly gained popularity, and most are selling out. It costs $64 to participate as a chef or a judge. Upcoming dates include Sept. 15, Sept. 21 and Oct. 6, with more being announced regularly at fyoodkitchen.com.

Emma Bouthillette, a Biddeford native, is the author of “A Brief History of Biddeford.” She loves a good book and walking the beach with her corgi. www.emmabouthillette.com

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