Some ideas work. Some don't. Some are disasters. And some exceed expectations.
If you're doing multiple choice, mark down answer D for the Daily Herald Cook of the Week Challenge. We had high expectations for it, but Wednesday night's dramatic conclusion exceeded even them.
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Congratulations and thanks to the winner, Penny Kazmier of South Barrington. And also to the other finalists, runner-up Cate Brusenbach of Antioch, Mark Clemens of Elgin and Michael Lalagos of Schaumburg, as well as to all the other contestants. They were fabulous to work with and accomplished cooks to boot.
When Food Editor Deborah Pankey, Executive Editor Madeleine Doubek and I came up with the idea last spring, we were trying to create a little fun for our readers and to spark a bit of excitement around our Food section.
Given the success of all the cable TV cooking contests and given the paper's history of promoting suburban Cook of the Weeks, we thought, why not start a newspaper contest along the same lines? Maybe, Pankey suggested, it could end with a live event, the finalists cooking their ultimate recipes in public.
We hoped it would create a buzz.
Boy, did it ever.
Pankey and a team led by Eileen Brown, our director of innovation and audience development, took that idea and ran with it, giving shape to the concept and planning the event. Week after week, the competition in print and online narrowed the field.
The culmination came last night, and wow, what a great night it was. More than 200 Subscriber Total Access members joined us, the judges, a wide array of sponsors and the four finalists for the live cook-off at the Hyatt Regency Woodfield in Schaumburg.
All night, the mood was electric. When Pankey broke the final moments of tension by announcing the winner, there were cheers, smiles, hugs and tears.
It was quite a thing to witness. If you weren't there, you can check the Daily Herald TV video by Bill Zars to see for yourself.
It's a good illustration that newspapers don't have to be dry. It's OK to have fun, and in fact, it's worthwhile to remember that one of the underlying reasons people buy a newspaper is they enjoy reading it.
The event itself also emphasized to me, as this column has, that for those of us inside the newsroom, getting in touch with readers is hugely rewarding. It truly is. What a great night.
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