Join our challenge: Annual Cook of the Week competition looks a little different this year

It's that time of year again: We're looking for home cooks who are confident in their cooking prowess and want to join the Daily Herald Cook of the Week Challenge 2020.

If you love to cook, try new ingredients and are up for a challenge, this is the contest for you.

For those who have followed the contest before, there is one crucial change this year as we take precautions against spreading COVID-19: The finale will be a livestreamed event where we name the Cook of the Year.

On Nov. 9, four finalists will have one hour to prepare a plate for on-site celebrity judges to taste. That much stays the same, and there will be raffles and cooking demonstrations. Fans, however, will have to cheer on the cooks from home instead of watching the action in person as they've done in the past.

But, let's back up a bit. First, cooks should apply online at by the end of the day Aug. 26. Eight home cooks will be chosen to compete, and then the fun begins.

The first weeks of competition are elimination rounds, and with that, nothing has changed. Cooks do all their creating at home, and our judges will score each cook's recipes. Each week one cook is eliminated with the remaining cooks moving on to the next challenge.

Over six weeks, cooks will face take-home challenges using ingredients dreamed up by our editors and some supplied by the challenge sponsors. Cooks can pore over the internet for inspiration at home, scan cookbooks, test out entries, and then send us the recipe and smartphone snaps of plated dishes. Easy.

Judges will evaluate recipes on creativity, use of ingredients, presentation and perceived taste. So this is where recipe-writing skills are vital.

It's fast and furious, but it's a great way to strengthen your cooking chops.

Along the way, cooks will partake in short interviews to introduce them to our readers. Contestants can use social media outlets to spread the word about the recipes they are working on, and what they think of specific ingredients.

Leslie Meredith of Arlington Heights reacts after her name is called as the Daily Herald Cook of the Week Challenge winner for 2019. This year the finale will be a livestreaming event. From left are finalists Lulu Chapa of Volo, Lisa Eberhahn of Mount Prospect, Meredith, and Ann Wayne of Barrington. Daily Herald file photo, 2019

Sharing photos of themselves cooking or their finished dishes online has been a big hit in years past.

One past winner and one team of four contestants were asked to apply for television cooking show tryouts after producers keyed into the contest online.

The prize packages, while different each year, are a traditional draw. In years past, the Cook of the Year has gone home with kitchen appliances, gadgets and other prizes of more than $1,500.

So, Week 1: Eight cooks compete, and our judges will eliminate one person. Week 2: Seven cooks face off. Week 3: Six cooks remain and so on until just four cooks are left and heading for the finale.

But first, you've got to fill out an application.

Interested? Apply online at

Contact Food Editor Susan Stark at or (847) 427-4586. Be her friend on or follow her on Twitter.

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