Penny Kazmier always liked to cook, but never considered herself the competitive type.
Then in late July of last year, something caught her eye: an ad for the Daily Herald's Cook of the Week Challenge. Kazmier, a former Cook of the Week, pulled out a family favorite cheese spread recipe, filled out the online entry form and was selected as one of 16 cooks to compete in the paper's first home cook contest. A few months later, she was named winner of the live cook-off and crowned Daily Herald Cook of the Year 2011.
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"I never thought I would win anything," recalls Kazmier, a South Barrington wife and mother of four who now writes the Culinary Adventures column for the Food section.
"I had so much fun with the challenges. I spent some time at the obsession level; but then I got back to the 'food is fun' place," she says. "I love food; I love cooking for others."
Now it's your turn.
The Daily Herald again is looking for 16 cooks -- eight former Cooks of the Week and eight home cooking enthusiasts -- 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 TV's "Chopped" or "Iron Chef"). Those recipes will be evaluated by judges including myself and top suburban chefs like Hagop Hagopian of the Hyatt Regency Woodfield Schaumburg.
Eight winners will advance to the next recipe challenge round, with four finalists competing in a live cook-off Nov. 1 at the Hyatt Regency Woodfield. The winner will be named Cook of the Year 2012 and receive prizes worth more than $3,000.
The deadline to enter is Aug. 1. The 16 contestants will be introduced in the Aug. 29 Food section.
The entry form is at www.surveymonkey.com/s/cookoftheweek and includes space to submit an original recipe. Please make sure your recipe includes ingredient amounts, clear directions and the number of servings.
Feel free to email me with questions about the competition at firstname.lastname@example.org. Hope to see you in November.