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updated: 4/2/2013 9:55 AM

Naperville dad's truffles nothing to trifle with

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  • Video: Cook of the Week Tim Sullivan

  • Tim Sullivan gets up early to make his signature breakfast skillet for his family.

      Tim Sullivan gets up early to make his signature breakfast skillet for his family.
    photos by Paul Michna | Staff Photographer

  • Tim Sullivan cooks fresh-cut potatoes for his skillet breakfast.

      Tim Sullivan cooks fresh-cut potatoes for his skillet breakfast.
    Paul Michna | Staff Photographer

By Abby Scalf

Tim Sullivan admits he wasn't savvy in the kitchen when it came to desserts.

"For me, making dessert is getting a couple scoops of ice cream with chocolate syrup on it," the Naperville dad said.

He still hasn't lived down the time he tried to make cheesecake using large curd cottage cheese -- and that happened 30 years ago.

So imagine the surprise when a chocolate truffle Tim created won the dessert category of a fundraising competition not once, but two years in a row.

"I get a lot of requests," he adds with a chuckle. "It's a good thing-bad thing. On one side, (my wife, Kathleen) would like me to make more; and on the other side she does not want them in the house."

Tim's truffle odyssey began two years ago when he entered "60 Men Who Cook," a fundraiser organized by the Geneva Chamber of Commerce. He said deciding to make a dessert was a process of elimination; he want to make something simple that could stay cold as opposed to something that would have to stay hot.

To make the truffles, Tim experimented until he hit on the right taste, texture and appearance. His second year he varied the truffles slightly, offering dark chocolate and milk chocolate truffles. He also gave the treats a personal name, "Neighbors Nookies" in honor of Neighbors Publications, of which he is CEO and publisher.

"They are almost addictive," he said. "Everyone comes back for a second one and a third one. It was fun to see people's reaction.

"At the (event), a lot of people were asking me where they can buy them," he added with a laugh.

Competing alongside cooks of varying levels, from professionals to "weekend goofs like me," he said added to the fun. And it's for a good cause. Proceeds benefit organizations such as the Geneva History Center, Geneva Lions Club and Rotary Club of Geneva.

"I like doing what I enjoy and in the end being able to contribute to a good cause is a perfect combination," he said.

Making sweets is not Tim's only contribution in the kitchen. He dubs himself a "casual cook" who enjoys -- when work allows -- to cook a few nights a week and entertain. His "specialties" include a burger pumped up with spices, mushrooms, onions and garlic and his take on marinara that has about 30 ingredients and cooks all day.

"I love the unlimited creativity that cooking allows … when you create something that works out, it's really a lot of fun. A lot of times you create something and it doesn't work out and that's part of the journey."

Tim also loves to treat his family to breakfast. His repertoire includes oatmeal pancakes made with yogurt, pecans and cherries and a potato-based skillet full of garlic, onion, spices, turkey sausage and topped with eggs made to order.

"When it comes to making breakfast at home, I'm always the chef. It's always my domain," he said.

Tim is excited to experiment once again as he makes another batch of truffles for this year's competition. Inviting women to join the fun, "30 Men vs. 30 Women Who Cook" takes place April 19 at the Kane County Fairgrounds.

"We'll see what we come up with this year," he said. "We'll have some fun and see where it goes."

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