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updated: 7/6/2011 8:37 PM

Are you the best cook in the suburbs? Prove it!

Here's your chance to prove it!

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By Deborah Pankey

You're the person who brings the best potato salad to the block party, your quesadilla casserole is the first dish empty at the company potluck, and even when you don't know what's for dinner when you walk in the door you manage to pull together a fantastic meal for the family.

Friends tell you all the time you should be featured as a Daily Herald Cook of the Week and maybe you even have been.

You're the person we want for the first Daily Herald Cook of the Week Challenge.

We're looking for 16 cooks -- eight former Cooks of the Week and eight Cook of the Week hopefuls -- to face off in a series of recipe challenges. Each week we will unveil secret ingredients that must be used to create a recipe (a la "Iron Chef," but I promise no live eels). Recipes will be evaluated by judges including myself and such top suburban chefs as dessert diva Gale Gand, Hagop Hagopian of the Hyatt Regency Woodfield Schaumburg, Michael Maddox of Le Titi de Paris, Keith Willis of SugarToad in Naperville and former "Hell's Kitchen" cheftestant Trev McGrath who's heating things up at Bella Luna Pizza and Bar in Glendale Heights.

Eight winners will advance to the next recipe challenge round with four finalists competing in a live cook-off Nov. 2 at the Hyatt Regency Woodfield. The winner will be named Cook of the Year and receive prizes worth more than $2,000.

The deadline to enter is Aug. 3. The 16 contestants will be introduced in the Aug. 31 Food section.

The entry form is at and includes space to submit an original recipe. Feel free to email me with questions about the competition at

Challenge is open to all Illinois residents 21 years of age and older. Contestants currently must not be cooking in a professional kitchen or enrolled in culinary school. Contestants must be available for the entire 12-week Challenge. Contestants may be required to submit digital photos of recipes.
No purchase required. Contestants will be chosen from qualified entries received by Aug. 3, 2011. Contestants will be notified by e-mail. No cash equivalents, substitution or transfer of prizes allowed except at sponsor's sole discretion. All taxes, shipping, licenses, fees, delivery and charges associated with prizes are solely the winners' responsibility. Void where prohibited. Subject to all federal, state and local laws and regulations. Winners agree to allow use of name, photograph and submission for possible publicity without further permission. The return of a notification or prize as undeliverable, or any non-compliance with rules and/or conditions will result in disqualification and the selection of an alternate contestant or winner. Entries become the property of the Daily Herald. Employees of the Daily Herald and their families are not eligible.

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