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updated: 10/24/2013 6:22 AM

Cook of the Week Challengers learned about themselves, new ingredients

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  • Judy Monaco

      Judy Monaco

  • Nancy Smearman

      Nancy Smearman

  • Elliott Papineau

      Elliott Papineau

  • Tina Garrett

      Tina Garrett

  • Lynn Fors

      Lynn Fors

  • Karen Grobman

      Karen Grobman

  • Carrie McCulley

      Carrie McCulley

  • Mike Baron

      Mike Baron

  • Kevin Kilgore

      Kevin Kilgore

  • Nick Brenkus

      Nick Brenkus

  • Carrie Shawala

      Carrie Shawala

  • Jeff Zilch

      Jeff Zilch


All the contestants put forth incredible efforts, but alas only four could be chosen for the live-cooking show-down. The other 12 contestants reflect on their time in the challenge.

Mike Baron

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What did you learn about yourself as a cook? I learned that I should spend more time on the onset of meal perpetration, as far trying to step out of my comfort zone and incorporate new ingredients. As my trend was to use ingredients and proteins that I was most familiar with and liked to eat.

Did you discover any new ingredients or techniques? I learned that anything in the pantry is in play as far as gelatin, licorice or even sardines.

Is there a Round 1 mystery basket you're glad you didn't get? I'm glad I did not get the basket with the lime gelatin. I thought it was a great idea to use it in a marinade. I probably would have used it in my cocktail shaker with ginger beer and vodka.

Any Challenge recipe you hope to try? I'd like to try the risotto with peas and smoked bacon. It looks like it would be a great fall dish; real comfort food.

Nick Brenkus

What did you learn about yourself as a cook? This challenge being my first taught me how to be better prepared and perhaps more creative with my dish and garnish.

Did you discover any new ingredients? I didn't discover a new ingredient, however I did see some new ways to prepare them.

Any challenge baskets you're glad you didn't get? All the challenge baskets looked like fun and I would have liked to have tried a few more.

Lynn Fors

What did you learn about yourself during the contest? Well, I learned that I put too much on a plate! I also learned that I can bake and cook, and really can put ingredients together. I had a ton of ideas, so I can be creative. I also learned that many people close to me support me and think I'm a great cook, which made me feel so loved! I am also a much better cook when I'm not under pressure. It also made me think a lot about what the food looks like on a plate, not just what it tastes like. I make it, then people eat it. I also realized how much I don't measure stuff and just throw it in. This was a challenge when I had to write out recipes. It was also funny after being nominated for one of the cooks, that once I brought food somewhere after that I felt a lot of pressure!

What new ingredient did you discover? I was not familiar with currants at all. I had heard of them but never used them.

Is there a Round 1 mystery basket you're glad you didn't get? Yes, acorn squash

Are there any Round 1 recipes you've tried or plan to try? I am curious about the lime gelatin marinade for steak fajitas!

Tina Garrett

What did you learn about yourself as a cook during the contest? I learned how hard it is to keep track of the ingredients you use! I never measure ... ever! That is why I can cook and not bake as well, it was really tough to remember not just to throw stuff into the pot without writing it down. It made me have to slow down as a cook and think before I do. I also learned I actually want to win more than I thought. At first it was like "Oh I am so happy Lilly was in the paper with me and this is fun, but now I really want it!"

What new ingredient or techniques did you discover? I loved grilling the radicchio, that was a new flavor I didn't have much experience working with. Making homemade pasta was something fun to learn, although I won't be using that technique unless I have enough time as it was much longer of a process than I thought to get it right. I also learned not to put raw alcohol into a salad dressing!

Is there a Round 1 mystery basket you're glad you didn't get? Yes the canned salmon ... I would have freaked with that one. I think the contestants did amazing dishes with that, but I am glad it wasn't me! Are there any Round 1 recipes you've tried or plan to try? No not yet, but I am really looking forward to making the steak dishes.

Karen Grobman

Is there a Round 1 mystery basket you're glad you didn't get? Pork. I have never cooked pork, remnants of keeping kosher for most of my life.

Are there any Round 1 recipes you've tried or plan to try? I would like to try the Cilantro Lime Tacos

Carrie McCulley

What did you learn about yourself as a cook? I learned to be creative when cooking with ingredients you do not usually incorporate into your daily menus. The fun of the competition was to be challenged outside our comfort level. All of the baskets were imaginative and pushed our cuisine talents. It was a fun experience!

Did you discover any new ingredients? Cauliflower. Wow! I had never cooked it before and my family devoured my roasted smash. Members of my staff made it as well and were complimentary of my dish.

Any Challenge recipes you plan to try? Of course. I'm always trying new recipes to add to my repertoire.

Judy Monaco

What did you learn about yourself as a cook? When faced with the latest cooking challenge, I discovered that I have a lot of resources. I have many old and new cookbooks, a large collection of recipes, plus friends who love to cook. All I had to do was take a deep breath, relax, start experimenting and create the best I could. It was an exciting challenge.

What new ingredient(s) or techniques did you discover? I have never used phyllo dough before so this was definitely a learning experience. I discovered you need a lot of patience, one layer at a time, lots of butter and keep it moist. I used many boxes of dough before creating some dishes that where tasty. My main taster, my husband, really doesn't want to eat anymore "treats" made with phyllo. Cooking with candy (Twizzlers) was also a new challenge. I learned how to use it as a sweetener combined with meat and other ingredients not to just use it as a piece of candy.

Is there a Round 1 mystery basket you're glad you didn't get? Frozen multigrain waffles, canned green chilies and Alpine-style cheese -- wow -- what a challenge.

Are there any Round 1 recipes you've tried or plan to try? Definitely want to make Campanelle with Shrimp, Sweet Peas and the Cilantro Steak Tacos with Habanero Mango Cucumber Salsa; both sound delicious.

Elliott Papineau

What did you learn about yourself as a cook? Cooking with a long (days) time constraint is a lot harder than cooking something simple for my family.

What new ingredient did you discover? I did not discover any new ingredients during this contest, but I did use ingredients in new ways. I cut acorn squash, for example, in a way that I had never before attempted.

Are there any challenge baskets you're glad you didn't get)? Almost all of the others. I am glad that my basket contained versions of food that I would regularly cook and eat.

Other thoughts: Cooking is more than a contest. It is what makes us human. We have become disconnected from our food, and the process by which it is prepared. Simple ingredients, simple techniques, and simple thoughts are what it takes to make a meal.

We should promote cooking as something that is vital to our lives, not taking our life away from us. Cooking is not hard. We have everything we need to do it, and do it well.

Nancy Smearman

What did you learn about yourself as a cook? I learned that there are some pretty creative cooks out there and I pale by comparison. I am really just creative in my own quirky way, not to the point where I have a vast knowledge of cooking and creating recipes. Maybe it's just that I have two part-time jobs, a hubby and three teenagers who I have to prepare meals for ... and I must put things together fast. There's no time for reductions and things. It's just "get something decent on the table and get it there in a hurry." Also, I had never followed the challenge before and I didn't know what I was getting into. The competition was fierce. Kudos to the other contestants and the winners! P.S. I also learned that I like baking better than cooking.

What new ingredient did you discover? Lime gelatin as a condiment. I was too conventional with it. Again, the creativity was amazing.

Are there any ingredients you're glad you didn't get? The ground lamb one. It just always looks gray ... not my favorite thing.

Have you tried any of the other recipes yet? No, not yet, but many looked very complicated to me ... out of my league, I'm afraid. Maybe you could do a contest where you have to make something good with five ingredients or less. Now that's my kind of challenge!

Jeff Zilch

What did you learn about yourself as a cook? I think that I learned how to apply traditional cooking methods to ingredients that were not normally in my repertoire. I also learned that you don't have to over think food. Some of the best stuff that has come out of this contest has been from just breaking out of your comfort zone and trying new ingredients and pairing flavors. I also learned that it is OK for something to not turn out the way you wanted it to. No one hits a home run every time they step up to the plate. But as Wayne Gretzky once said, "You miss 100 percent of the shots you don't take." In short, I learned to just go cook and good things will happen.

What new ingredient or techniques did you discover? This competition has definitely taught me to be more creative. I learned that using marinades, rubs and different cooking methods can really highlight a dish. If there were an ingredient that stands out it would be beets. I have never had one before and they were delicious. If it were a new technique then it would be how to infuse some great flavors into traditional foods.

Is there a Round 1 mystery basket you're glad you didn't get? Can I say all of them? My hat goes off to all the other cooks. They made some awesome looking food while combining ingredients in a way I never would have thought of.

Are there any Round 1 recipes you've tried or plan to try? I think there are a couple of things that we will try. Acorn squash ravioli is definitely on the list.

Cook of the Week Challenge contestants Kevin Kilgore and Carrie Shawala did not respond.

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