What's new for the Daily Herald Cook of the Week Challenge 2017

  • Executive Chef Massimo Gaffo performs a cooking demonstration for the audience at a previous Cook of the Week Challenge finale.

      Executive Chef Massimo Gaffo performs a cooking demonstration for the audience at a previous Cook of the Week Challenge finale. Patrick Kunzer | Staff Photographer

  • Emcee Paul Guerrero entertains the crowd at a previous Cook of the Week Challenge finale.

      Emcee Paul Guerrero entertains the crowd at a previous Cook of the Week Challenge finale. Patrick Kunzer | Staff Photographer

  • John Starks/jstarks@dailyherald.com, 2016Matthew Laizure, a volunteer from Wheaton makes adjustments to a juicer at the 11th annual Veggie Fest in Lisle Sunday. This year's festival returns to Lisle on Aug. 13, 14.

    John Starks/jstarks@dailyherald.com, 2016Matthew Laizure, a volunteer from Wheaton makes adjustments to a juicer at the 11th annual Veggie Fest in Lisle Sunday. This year's festival returns to Lisle on Aug. 13, 14.

 
 
Updated 8/2/2017 1:41 PM

The Daily Herald Cook of the Week Challenge is back in a new size and shape for 2017. We're looking for people who love to cook, have fun in the kitchen, feel adventurous when facing new or unusual ingredients and can commit to the few weeks of the challenge this fall.

New this year, all eight cooks will begin the contest instead of one-on-one matchups. So this year, the Cook of the Week Challenge will resemble those popular television cooking contests and look less like the Sweet-16 bracket-style matchups of years past.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Also new: Everyone faces the same basket of secret ingredients each week and creates a dish showcasing the ingredients. Our panel of celebrity chefs, former contestants and food professionals will pass judgment and eliminate one cook each week.

What's the same? In each of the four weeks of elimination cooking, challengers get about a week, in their own homes, to create recipes. There is plenty of time for research, trial and error and subjecting friends and family to be taste testers. Besides the cooking, the focus should be on clear and detailed recipe writing as the judges won't sample the elimination round entries. 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.

At the end of September, I'll introduce our eight contestants to readers here. The first week of October you can read about the competition, hear from the cooks about their experiences in the challenge and see what our judges have to say about each recipe.

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 live finale. Viola! A trimmer, slimmer competition all around.

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The final four cooks will meet in the traditional live cook-off finale. This popular event will be held Monday, Nov. 13, at the Westin Chicago Northwest in Itasca.

The four cooks each have a cooking station, helper, prep area and space for presenting their dishes and exactly one hour to create their masterpieces. A panel of celebrity chefs and other judges taste each dish, award points for taste, use of ingredients, creativity and presentation. While the cooking is underway, the audience can enjoy chef demonstrations, tastings and product samples from our contest sponsors.

Our judges include contest sponsors, food professionals, area chefs and past Cook of the Week Challenge winners. (It's possible you'll also see cooks who have been eliminated in this year's contest judging their fellow contestants.)

To get this off the ground, we need you. If you're up for a challenge, or someone you know is ready to wield their spatulas, visit http://events.dailyherald.com/cotw-app/ to enter the Daily Herald Cook of the Week Challenge 2017. Deadline to enter is Aug. 18. To read more about past Cook of the Week Challenges, see dailyherald.com.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Veggie Fest returns to Lisle

The 12th annual Veggie Fest aims to make your taste buds happy. About 40,000 people are expected to converge upon Benedictine University Aug. 13 and 14 for the fest. If you're a vegetarian, you'll love knowing you can eat something at every booth in the international food court. If you're new to vegetarian food, you're sure to find something that makes you say, "Wow, I didn't know vegetarian food could be so good!" Are you a vegan? No problem. You'll find plenty of vegan and raw food at Veggie Fest, too.

The event features a huge international food court; health professionals speaking on diet, lifestyle and environmental issues; food demonstrations by restaurant owners, chefs and authors; and a children's tent with face painting, clowns and crafts. There will also be live music and more than 100 vendor booths to explore.

Admission and parking are free, and you'll find tons of fun for the whole family. For more information, visit www.veggiefestchicago.com.

Contact Food Editor Susan Stark at sstark@dailyherald.com or (847) 427-4586. Be her friend on Facebook.com/SusanStarkDailyherald or follow her on Twitter.

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