Meet the judges for Cook of the Week Challenge Round 2

Updated 10/18/2017 11:38 AM
  • Rachael Kunst

    Rachael Kunst

  • Ahmed Azizy

    Ahmed Azizy

  • Michael Pennisi

    Michael Pennisi

  • Dan Rich

    Dan Rich

  • Suzy Singh

    Suzy Singh

Chef Rachael Kunst

Chef Manager, AMITA Health System Corporate Office, Arlington Heights

Rachael Kunst is the chef manager for the AMITA Health System Corporate Office in Arlington Heights. Kunst studied culinary arts at the Cooking and Hospitality Institute of Chicago, part of Le Cordon Bleu. She believes in a healthy and creative approach to her cooking and enjoys sharing that with others. When not in the kitchen, she enjoys running, going to concerts and spending time with her family.

Daniel Rich

2013 Cook of the Year

To win Cook of the Year in 2013, Dan Rich of Elgin made sautéed chicken breast stuffed with Israeli couscous and covered in a wild mushroom sauce, creamed peas with sage and a brûlée fruit compote with rosemary Muzzie. It was the Muzzie that won it, Rich said. He says his culinary training consists of lots of Food Network and a whole bunch of trial and error at home cooking for family and friends. "After winning the 2013 Cook of the Week Challenge, people still recognize me and ask me what I'm cooking for dinner. I normally tell them something French, avant-garde and very complicated. Normally it's something simple on the grill, with fresh fruits and veggies. I'm not getting any younger, you know." What's he looking for in the winning cook? "Simple -- love of food -- honesty -- depth. I am looking for an understanding of what they're doing and a bit of flash and flair."

Michael Pennisi

2012 Cook of the Year

Michael Pennisi of Carpentersville served the judges sautéed salmon over pureed sweet potatoes with Brussels sprout slaw to win the Cook of the Year title in 2012. A physics teacher at Schaumburg High School, Pennisi says he started cooking in grade school by making cookies, moved on to breakfast items and could make a few fancy dinners by the end of high school. "My expertise is in making pizza and smoke cooking," he said. In Italy, Pennisi had the chance to make pizza in an outdoor wood-burning pizza oven halfway up the side of a mountain. "The view was spectacular. The hospitality of the family we stayed with was overwhelming. The pizza was life-changing, no exaggeration," he said. What's he looking for in the winning cook? "The ingredients and rules in this competition tend to be complex. So to me, synthesizing that complexity into a recipe accessible to home cooks is where the challenge lies."

Chef Ahmed Azizy

Executive Chef Westin Chicago Northwest

Born and raised in Morocco, Ahmed Azizy took a circuitous route to the culinary world. He graduated from the University Hassan II in Casablanca and became a semiprofessional soccer player. In 1985, his athletic ability brought him to Denver, where he met and married his wife, Suzannah. Her New England roots brought them to Vermont, where Ahmed decided to follow his passion for the culinary arts. Following his 1991 graduation from The New England Culinary Institute, Azizy accepted a position at Chicago's Ritz Carlton and The Four Seasons hotels along the Magnificent Mile, where he quickly worked his way up the fine-dining corporate ladder. He also worked as a private chef for a number of Chicago's Gold Coast notables. Azizy is currently executive chef at The Westin Chicago Northwest in Itasca.

Chef Suzy Singh

R & D Corporate Chef for Ellyndale of NOW Foods

Suzy Singh, known as "The Spicy Chef," made it to the Top 4 in Fox's "MasterChef" Season 2. While cooking has always been a passion, it hasn't always been her profession. In fact, as a first-generation South Asian, Singh worked in neurosurgery as a neural engineer before making the switch to follow what she loved. She joined NOW Foods as R & D Corporate Chef in 2013 to drive new product development and create healthy solutions for existing products in the food category. Singh currently heads the product development of a new line for NOW Foods called Ellyndale. This line is focused on delicious, healthy and innovative products and allows her passion for great-tasting healthy food to come to life.

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