At first glance you wouldn't think an attorney from Naperville would have anything in common with a twenty-something Des Plaines homemaker or a physics teacher from Carpentersville. But peer into their kitchens any night of the week and their commonality comes into focus: They love to cook.
It's their passion and enthusiasm that landed these three as well as 13 other suburban cooks in the lineup for our 2012 Cook of the Week Challenge.
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After reading applications and recipes submitted by dozens of cooks from St. Charles to Grayslake to Mount Prospect to Sleepy Hollow, we selected eight former Cooks of the Week and eight new faces to be part of our second annual elimination-style cooking competition.
Over the next two months, these cooks will compete in one-on-one contests that challenge them to use the same "secret ingredients" to create an entree and at least one side dish, or a one-pot meal. A panel of judges -- including former "MasterChef" contestant and Buffalo Grove native Suzy Singh and Spencer Wolff, the new executive chef with the Hyatt Regency Woodfield Schaumburg -- will decide each week who will advance to the next round.
The four left standing after two rounds will compete in a live cook-off Nov. 1 at the Hyatt where the winner will be crowned Cook of the Year and receive a prize package valued at $3,000.
These cooks aren't the only ones vying for prizes. Each week we invite readers to vote for their favorite recipe at surveymonkey.com/s/COTW. (If you voted last year, don't fret. This year we made the system infinitely easier.) The overall Fan Favorite will receive a special prize, and each week voters will be randomly selected to receive prizes from our sponsors, including Q7 Ranch and Geneva Spice Shop.
You can follow the cooks' progress each Wednesday in the Food section and on our website, dailyherald.com/cookchallenge. Like us on Facebook at facebook.com/cookoftheweek to learn more about our sponsors and for updates on how you can be in the audience for the Nov. 1 cook-off.