The cook with the biggest fan club reigned supreme Monday night as Elizabeth Schuttler of Inverness was crowned the Daily Herald's 2017 Cook of the Week Challenge winner in front of dozens of supporters.
Schuttler went home the winner of the seventh annual contest after an hourlong cooking frenzy in front of an audience of 400 foodies at Westin Chicago Northwest in Itasca.
Schuttler, 49, described her winning dish as quite the mouthful: a stuffed roulade of beef shoulder marinated in cider with orange, on top of chive and goat cheese mashed potatoes with kale, red peppers, broccoli raab and crispy pancetta, topped with a mushroom and shallot cream sauce.
"This sauce is killer," said Suzy Singh, one of the contest's six judges who works as research and development corporate chef at NOW Foods.
The flavor balance and sauce made Schuttler the champion over fellow contestants Ben Blake, 26, of Winfield; Mark Clemens, 64, of Elgin; and Darla Pitts, 41, of Chicago.
As the festivities concluded, Schuttler hoisted the giant spoon trophy on stage with her husband as her fan club in "Victor-E-lizabeth" shirts applauded. The judges -- Singh, 2016 Cook of the Week Challenge winner John Hampson, Jimmy Nicolau of Grecian Delight Foods, Becky Waite of Binny's Beverage Depot, Mario Rizzotti from Iron Chef America and Ahmed Azizy of the Westin -- encouraged Schuttler to make the winning meal part of her repertoire.
The dish combined five components on Monday's secret ingredient list, which contestants received only an hour or so before the 60-minute cooking clock started ticking. Required ingredients were beef teres major (which means beef shoulder) from the night's host, the Westin; hard apple cider from Binny's Beverage Depot; quinoa cups from NOW Foods; traditional vegan refried beans from Goya; and pancetta from Tony's Fresh Market.
Schuttler called winning the competition "a bucket list item."
"It's a very special moment," she said. "I'm very lucky because I have a lot of people cheering me on."
Along with her trophy, Schuttler's prize package includes a Chef's Table dining experience at Seasons 52 in Schaumburg, a Thermador Emerald Series Integrated Dishwasher courtesy of Novak & Parker/Thermador, cooking tools and gadgets from the Daily Herald, classes for two at Cooking Skills Academy, and gift cards from BlackFinn Ameripub and Tony's Fresh Market.
The other finalists will receive cooking classes for two at Cooking Skills Academy and gift cards from BlackFinn and Tony's Fresh Market.
While the finalists cooked under a tight deadline, attendees relaxed while noshing on an appetizer buffet, taste-testing samples from sponsors and watching cooking demonstrations.
Proceeds from ticket prices and raffles will go toward Northern Illinois Food Bank.