Cook of the Week Challenge entries coming in, but we want to hear from you, too

  • John Hampson of Antioch is helped by his wife during last year's live cook-off finale at the Westin Chicago Northwest in Itasca.

      John Hampson of Antioch is helped by his wife during last year's live cook-off finale at the Westin Chicago Northwest in Itasca. Bev Horne | Staff Photographer, 2016

  • Sardine fish cake Veracruz style was just one of the dishes last year's Cook of the Week Challenge winner John Hampson of Antioch created during the competition.

      Sardine fish cake Veracruz style was just one of the dishes last year's Cook of the Week Challenge winner John Hampson of Antioch created during the competition. Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer, 2016

 
 
Updated 8/9/2017 11:30 AM

Did you see that entries for this year's Cook of the Week Challenge are due by Aug. 18? They are, and we haven't heard from you yet.

We're looking for people who love to cook, have fun in the kitchen, feel adventurous and can commit to the few weeks of the challenge this fall.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The Daily Herald Cook of the Week Challenge has a new size and format this year: It's more compact and streamlined.

Eight cooks will enter in the same challenge to start. All contestants will face the same basket of secret ingredients each week. They will brainstorm dishes to showcase the ingredients and submit the recipes. Our panel of celebrity chefs, former contestants and food professionals will eliminate one cook each week.

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, tinkering and perfecting. Besides the cooking, the focus should be on clear and detailed recipe writing as the judges won't sample the elimination round entries.

Once the eight cooks have been chosen, we'll all meet Sept. 7 at Seasons 52 in Schaumburg for a full rundown of the rules and instructions. The cooks will get a chance to meet each other, too. A real camaraderie can develop among the cooks, and lasting friendships have been formed over the years.

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 and see what our judges have to say about each recipe.

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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.

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.

We've gotten entries, but we want to widen the pool. If you love to cook, have fun and enjoy a challenge, this contest is for you. Visit events.dailyherald.com/cotw-app/ to enter the Daily Herald Cook of the Week Challenge 2017. To read more about past Cook of the Week Challenges, see dailyherald.com.

Why Americans love to cook

The culinary and publishing world lost a true pioneer last week when Judith Jones died at age 93. Working first for Doubleday and then as an editor for Alfred A. Knopf, she was in the publishing world at a time when there were few women in her office and not many more in the entire field. Jones pushed back and stuck with her instincts about what people wanted to read. She championed the American publishing of "The Diary of Anne Frank," and she fell in love with French food, leading to a long friendship and working relationship with Julia Child.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Postwar America's love of canned and boxed convenience foods left Jones wanting more. She knew there was an audience for information about food and learning how to cook. That's about when "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" -- by Child, Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle -- hit her desk. And the rest, as they say, is history. Jones worked at Knopf for 50 years unearthing and nurturing writers, and she even wrote a few cookbooks of her own.

When my mom downsized recently, she asked me if there was anything I wanted. Any object or furniture. I said, no, just leave me your first-edition copy of "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" in your will. I will cherish it.

Tasty rewards for going gluten free

Congratulations to Sweet Ali's Gluten Free Bakery in Hinsdale and Glenview. The shop has been named one of the Top 10 Bakeries in the state by Best Things Illinois and one of the Top 10 Gluten Free Bakeries in the country by Love with Food. Staff members are proud of the recognition especially as the state ranking isn't based on specialty. It's simply a "best bakeries" listing.

Ali Graeme opened the Hinsdale shop in 2009 after she and her son were diagnosed with Celiac Disease. In a market of sometimes flat or tasteless gluten-free baked goods, she experimented and created her own. The shops bake breads, cookies, muffins, cupcakes and more. After a recent taste-test, I can say the cookies and cakes are delicious whether you are adhering to a gluten-free regimen or not.

Veggis Fest

• Explore the world of vegetarianism with thousands of others at the 12th annual Veggie Fest at Benedictine University Aug. 13 and 14 in Lisle. You'll find plenty of vegan and raw food, too. With food, information from health experts and cooking demonstrations, music and a kids tent, there is sure to be something for everyone. Admission and parking are free. For more information, visit www.veggiefestchicago.com.

• Contact Food Editor Susan Stark at sstark@dailyherald.com or (847) 427-4586. Follow her on Twitter.

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