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updated: 8/7/2012 11:12 AM

Elgin school bus driver takes to cooking like a pro

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  • Tony Hollister likes one-dish meals, like his hearty chicken potpie.

       Tony Hollister likes one-dish meals, like his hearty chicken potpie.
    Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

  • Brian Hill/bhill@dailyherald.comTony Hollister of Elgin is known for his homemade chicken potpie.

      Brian Hill/bhill@dailyherald.comTony Hollister of Elgin is known for his homemade chicken potpie.

 

By Sally Eyre

Daily Herald Correspondent

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The next time you see the driver of an 18-wheeler talking on his radio, consider this, he might be exchanging recipes.

"Oh yeah, we'd talk about cooking," Elgin resident Tony Hollister laughs. Tony drove an 18-wheeler for Coca-Cola for 36 years. He remembers one time on the road when a rib special drew the drivers into a truck stop like magnets and they all spent a long time talking ribs.

These days the cargo Tony's hauling is even more precious; he drives a school bus. His unique work schedule, with the hours off between taking the kids to school and picking them up, works perfectly for Tony.

"I've got a lot of time on my hands for my hobby!" His hobby of course is cooking for him and his wife of 43 years, empty nesters now, and baking.

"I like to bake bread and desserts." You will often find Tony baking cookies for the couple's monthly bowling league.

"I've created a monster. I brought in cookies one night and now I'm bringing in three different kinds of cookies every other Saturday!" he laughs.

"I've been cooking for most of my life. I never had formal training, but as a kid I was always helping my mom."

Tony counts his grandmother as a great influence as well.

"They were farm people. When I was young I would go there in the summers and even though they eventually moved into town, Grandma's whole meal was made from food they had grown or aged themselves."

Tony prefers to cook meals that are hearty and stick-to-your-ribs. He particularly loves "the one bowl" type of dinner that serves up everything you need in one dish, like his Chicken Pot Pie. He likes to do shish kebabs and stir-fries for the same reason. (He shares his chicken shish kebab recipe at dailyherald.com/entlife/food.)

"I don't do the little fancy stuff. I'm more a blue collar cook, the meat and potatoes kind. You don't have to stop on the way home after dinner (at my house) and get something to eat!"

Putting together the recipes for us is a challenge for Tony as he rarely uses recipes when he cooks.

"I used to ask my mom how she made something and she's say 'oh, a little bit of this and a little bit of that.' How long? I'd ask, or what temperature? Because of that, that's the way I do it too. I just wing it and fly by the seat of my pants!"

Tony shares his love for cooking with his steelworker son-in-law. His son-in-law has taken over the Thanksgiving cooking and the pair of them like to shop the cooking stores. The only problem with the new Thanksgiving arrangement is that there are no longer any leftovers!

Despite his blue collar attitude, Tony does think how the food looks on the plate is important.

"Presentation is everything!' he laughs. "I can be very finicky and particular."

Take his lemon meringue pie.

"I just haven't mastered it yet. It tastes fine, but the meringue always shrinks up."

Sounds like a good question for the truckers.

"Breaker, breaker -- anyone out there have a fix for problem meringue? Over."

• To suggest someone to be profiled here, send the cook's name, address and phone number to food@dailyherald.com.

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