Hey, look, Mom, I made it! This contest has been a very exciting few weeks because cooking is something that I thoroughly enjoy. Now I have the prize of sharing the joy with my fellow cooks and a room full of food-loving people. What can be better than that? Oh, wait, the Trophy Spoon, of course! When I got picked to be a competitor, I thought, "What have I gotten myself into? If I make it through all four challenges, I can't cook in front of an audience." Well, here I am. I'm not going to lie; I am nervous. I have never done anything like this in front of an audience. I am also very excited for this experience. It's been enlightening to unlock my creativity, and it makes me feel great. Each week I tried to anticipate what the secret ingredients would be. The finals are no different. I would like to see fresh fish as a final ingredient. An unusual vegetable like tindora or watermelon radish would be exciting too. The ingredients that I don't want to see in the finals are cuts of beef and food that gets its sweetness from sugar or sugar substitute. Some cuts of meat require specific cooking methods, and I don't always know what they are without a little bit of research. A sweet ingredient in this challenge is scary to me because I generally like my lunch or dinner meals to be savory.
I am preparing for the Nov. 11 event by reading up on past years' events. I am looking at pictures to try to get the lay of the land too. I am also talking with my sous chef, Mark, about all the possible scenarios.
Speaking of Mark, let me tell you a little bit about him. His love of cooking goes back to childhood. Some of his fondest memories are standing on a chair next to the counter, helping his mom or grandmother bake delicious treats. Mark truly started learning how to cook from Julia Child and The Frugal Gourmet, whom he watched religiously through his teen years. It was through encouragement from his wife, Carol, that he enrolled in the Baking and Pastry program at Kendall College. This is where Mark and I met and quickly became friends.
I think like most people, I go through my busy days and get stuck in a rut. I have always liked to cook, but recently, I find myself making the same, safe meals for dinner each night. This challenge has given me spark again. I am enjoying coming home from work each day to cook up a meal that may or may not include a secret ingredient. It's been a fun topic of conversation at family dinner time.
If you are out there wondering if you should enter this challenge, I say, do it! You will be encouraged to think outside of the box. You'll discover combinations of foods that you would believe otherwise don't go well together. Overcome your fears and have fun with it. You will meet some cool people along the way too.