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updated: 8/30/2012 3:06 PM

Introducing our 16 Cook of the Week contenders

Introducing our 16 Cook of the Week contenders

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  • Michelle Abraham of Schaumburg

       Michelle Abraham of Schaumburg
    Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

  • Scott Sanders/ssanders@dailyherald.comMarie Evangelista holds up her favorite ingredient, onions, in her kitchen in Bloomingdale.

      Scott Sanders/ssanders@dailyherald.comMarie Evangelista holds up her favorite ingredient, onions, in her kitchen in Bloomingdale.

  • Bill Zars/bzars@dailyherald.comFormer cook of the week contestant Louann Zundel of Des Plaines is now a cook of the year contestant. Her favorite cooking ingredient is butter.

      Bill Zars/bzars@dailyherald.comFormer cook of the week contestant Louann Zundel of Des Plaines is now a cook of the year contestant. Her favorite cooking ingredient is butter.

  • Rick West/rwest@dailyherald.comDaily Herald Cook of the Week Challenge contestant Mary Beth Thornton's favorite ingredient is olive oil.

      Rick West/rwest@dailyherald.comDaily Herald Cook of the Week Challenge contestant Mary Beth Thornton's favorite ingredient is olive oil.

  • Christopher Hankins/chankins@dailyherald.comCook of the Week Challenge entrant Michael Pennisi of Carpentersville, with his favorite ingredient.. smoke.

      Christopher Hankins/chankins@dailyherald.comCook of the Week Challenge entrant Michael Pennisi of Carpentersville, with his favorite ingredient.. smoke.

  • George LeClaire/gleclaire@dailyherald.comCook of the Week Challenge contestant Rachel Hencz's with heart shaped on Tuesday, August 21, 2012.

      George LeClaire/gleclaire@dailyherald.comCook of the Week Challenge contestant Rachel Hencz's with heart shaped on Tuesday, August 21, 2012.

  • Paul Michna/pmichna@dailyherald.comBill Babiarz of Wheaton with Portobello Mushrooms. He is a Challenge Contestant.

      Paul Michna/pmichna@dailyherald.comBill Babiarz of Wheaton with Portobello Mushrooms. He is a Challenge Contestant.

  • JOE LEWNARD/jlewnard@dailyherald.comCook of the Week Challenge contestant Jamie Andrade.

      JOE LEWNARD/jlewnard@dailyherald.comCook of the Week Challenge contestant Jamie Andrade.

  • Bill Zars/bzars@dailyherald.comFormer cook of the week Chuck Federici of Hanover Park grows fresh basil for his recipes and is competing for the cook of the year title..

      Bill Zars/bzars@dailyherald.comFormer cook of the week Chuck Federici of Hanover Park grows fresh basil for his recipes and is competing for the cook of the year title..

  • Bill Zars/bzars@dailyherald.comCook of the year contestant Joe Moninski of Arlington Heights likes to use fresh ingredients in his recipes. His favorite item is cilantro.

      Bill Zars/bzars@dailyherald.comCook of the year contestant Joe Moninski of Arlington Heights likes to use fresh ingredients in his recipes. His favorite item is cilantro.

  • George LeClaire/gleclaire@dailyherald.comCook of the Week Challenge contestant Gary Midkiff with his favorite ingredient, garlic, in Buffalo Grove on Monday, August 20.

      George LeClaire/gleclaire@dailyherald.comCook of the Week Challenge contestant Gary Midkiff with his favorite ingredient, garlic, in Buffalo Grove on Monday, August 20.

  • Paul Valade/pvalade@dailyherald.comCook of the Week challenger Sarah K. Lee of Round Lake. Flour is her favorite item.

      Paul Valade/pvalade@dailyherald.comCook of the Week challenger Sarah K. Lee of Round Lake. Flour is her favorite item.

  • Paul Michna/pmichna@dailyherald.comTerri Edmunds and her favorite ingredent fresh spices.

      Paul Michna/pmichna@dailyherald.comTerri Edmunds and her favorite ingredent fresh spices.

  • Paul Valade/pvalade@dailyherald.comCook of the Week Challenge contestant Mary Miske of Lake Zurich.

      Paul Valade/pvalade@dailyherald.comCook of the Week Challenge contestant Mary Miske of Lake Zurich.

  • Mark Welsh/mwelsh@dailyherald.comElk Grove Village Ronald Nunes with his favorite ingredients, onions, peppers, blueberries, preparing to cook his famous pork chops.

      Mark Welsh/mwelsh@dailyherald.comElk Grove Village Ronald Nunes with his favorite ingredients, onions, peppers, blueberries, preparing to cook his famous pork chops.

  • Paul Michna/pmichna@dailyherald.comAnthony Barone with garlic. It's his favorate ingredient.

      Paul Michna/pmichna@dailyherald.comAnthony Barone with garlic. It's his favorate ingredient.

 
 

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.

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