View photos from the 2018 Taste of the Vikings, which was held to benefit the Vikings Foundation.
EAGAN, Minn. — “The Chef” won with the crab cake.
Vikings running back Dalvin Cook honored his nickname by teaming with a real chef, James Mahne, to win the first-ever “Iron Viking” competition last month during the annual Taste of the Vikings fundraiser at U.S. Bank Stadium.
Cook and Mehne, a chef with Aramark’s M Hospitality (at U.S. Bank Stadium), worked together on a crab cake that won over judges.
The second-year pro looked like a seasoned kitchen vet during the 30-minute contest in which he faced a team that featured Vikings defensive end Stephen Weatherly.
Ariana Feygin, a contestant on season six of MasterChef Junior on FOX, was one of the judges and announced Cook and Mehne as the winners over a dish that implemented sea urchin.
Weatherly, who personally helped cut some of the sea urchin, gave an impassioned speech to judges about using the exotic ingredient, but the crab cake prevailed.
“I wish everybody could have a plate because it’s that good,” Cook said. “It’s the crab cake.”
Mehne, who has worked in the sports restaurant business for 14 years and at U.S. Bank Stadium since August 2017, said he enjoyed teaming with Cook.
“That was a lot of fun,” Mehne said. “I was nervous in the beginning, but it was a lot of fun. Cook seasoned that whole crab cake himself. I gave him the tools. He made it happen, and it was awesome. He had some questions, but he rocked it.
“You see these guys and hear about them and read about them, and now they’re right next to you,” Mehne added. “They’re good guys.”
While the Iron Viking was a new element, Taste of the Vikings continued its mission of raising money to feed people facing hunger throughout the Twin Cities.
Some of the best restaurants in the Twin Cities came together to serve up signature dishes for attendees and win over judges.
Vikings coaches and players mingled with guests, posing for photos and autographing memorabilia, and many players tied on aprons to help serve the food.
“The Taste of the Vikings is an annual team event that raises a lot of money for the Vikings Foundation,” Executive Director of Social Impact Brett Taber said. “It’s one of our primary fundraisers and is an event that’s special for our fans, our players, our coaches and staff. It’s one of those few events where our entire team comes together to raise a lot of money for a great cause.
“All the funds raised from the evening will go to support the Minnesota Vikings Foundation and its efforts around youth health and education,” Taber added. “Specifically, those funds are going to be directed toward the Minnesota Vikings Food Truck that we look forward to launching this fall. It’s going to help provide meals to underserved kids in our communities. The food truck will primarily serve the greater metro area, but it also will extend out to the more rural parts of the state. It’s really focused on providing meals to kids who can’t afford it or helping remove barriers for those kids to take part in summer feeding programs and make healthy food more accessible to everyone.
An NFL Kick Hunger Challenge group led by first-time participant and former Vikings defensive tackle Esera Tuaolo served up plates featuring Verlasso salmon.
“I didn’t know this was a competition,” Tuaolo said. “I thought we were raising money for the Minnesota Vikings Foundation, and that’s what this is all about, raising money to make a difference in Minnesota, so that was the passion behind it.
“Two hours into this, people were saying this is a competition, so I’m blown away,” Tuaolo said.”
Tuaolo credited his mother for inspiring his interest in cooking.
“My motivation for cooking comes from my mom,” Tuaolo said. “She taught me my recipes. They basically are her recipes that I sort of doctored up for myself.”
In addition to the food and drink offerings, fans were able to purchase memorabilia and one-of-a-kind experiences.
Meg Kiser, a Vikings fan since 1966, was among attendees who bid on and won the opportunity to visit the Vikings locker room and come onto the field through the players’ entry tunnel, passing through the ship that features the fire-breathing dragon.
Kiser, who has enjoyed participating in Vikings Women initiatives, selected the opportunity to join Everson Griffen for the walk because she had the opportunity to wear his practice jersey at a women’s camp hosted by the Vikings. Kiser’s friend, Tess Jacobs, enjoyed walking out with Kyle Rudolph.
“I volunteer at different places where the kids are hungry,” Kiser said. “Those teenage years, they’re in their growth spurt, so they’re twice as hungry, so helping them and feeding them through different nonprofits here is amazing. It’s critical. We can help in our back yard.”