16 women and men ready for Cook of the Week Challenge

  • Cook of the Week Challenge

    Cook of the Week Challenge

  • Cook of the Week Challenge

    Cook of the Week Challenge

By Deborah Pankey
Daily Herald Food Editor
Updated 9/6/2011 12:05 PM

They came from Mundelein and Bartlett, Elgin and Des Plaines with recipes like JC's Orzo Salad, Stuffed Mushrooms and Shrimp and Beef Burgers Oscar on Buttery Herbed Sourdough. Nearly 100 cooks in all entered recipes in hopes of making the slate of 16 contestants in our inaugural Cook of the Week Challenge.

To say the choice was difficult is an understatement. I, for one, read and reread the entries so many times that grilled chicken breasts, poblano Alfredo sauce and Ina Garten (a Food Network chef cited by many as their favorite) started popping up in my dreams.


As I reveal the contestants, I do it with pride and confidence that we've selected the 16 best home cooks in the suburbs. These nine women and seven men represent a broad range of culinary styles and backgrounds.

Each recipe challenge pits a former Cook of the Week against a Cook of the Week hopeful in an elimination-style competition. The recipes will be judged by a panel that includes chefs and food professionals; the four who survive the opening two rounds will advance to a live cook-off Nov. 2 at the Hyatt Regency Woodfield Schaumburg.

At stake is not only the title of Daily Herald Cook of the Year, but a grand prize of a Solaire Infrared Grill package valued at more than $3,000, a meet-and-greet with Cake Boss Buddy Valastro, and other prizes from the likes of The Pampered Chef, Quaker Oats and Bunn.

The 16 cooks won't be the only ones vying for prizes. Each week readers can go to dailyherald.com/contest/cook and vote for their favorite recipe. At the end of the second round, one reader will be selected to be a judge at the Nov. 2 cook-off and walk away with a prize as well.

Now about that Nov. 2 cook-off ... That event will feature food and wine tastings, chef demos, information booths, goody bags and raffle prizes and will be open to the public. Stay tuned here for ticket information or "like" us on Facebook -- facebook.com/cookoftheweek -- for challenge updates.

In the meantime, I hope you enjoy learning about these 16 inspiring cooks and have fun reading and cooking the recipes they create each week.