Arlington Heights woman wins Cook of the Week challenge with a curry dish

  • Leslie Meredith of Arlington Heights reacts after her name is called as the Daily Herald Cook of the Week Challenge Finale winner at the Westin in Itasca on Monday evening. From left with her are the other finalists: Lulu Chapa of Volo, Lisa Eberhahn of Mount Prospect and Ann Wayne of Barrington.

      Leslie Meredith of Arlington Heights reacts after her name is called as the Daily Herald Cook of the Week Challenge Finale winner at the Westin in Itasca on Monday evening. From left with her are the other finalists: Lulu Chapa of Volo, Lisa Eberhahn of Mount Prospect and Ann Wayne of Barrington. Patrick Kunzer | Staff Photographer

  • This is the winning dish created by Leslie Meredith of Arlington Heights as she was selected as the Daily Herald Cook of the Week Challenge Finale winner at the Westin in Itasca on Monday evening.

      This is the winning dish created by Leslie Meredith of Arlington Heights as she was selected as the Daily Herald Cook of the Week Challenge Finale winner at the Westin in Itasca on Monday evening. Patrick Kunzer | Staff Photographer

  • Finalist Ann Wayne of Barrington created this dish, which she got done even after burning a red-wine reduction.

      Finalist Ann Wayne of Barrington created this dish, which she got done even after burning a red-wine reduction. Patrick Kunzer | Staff Photographer

  • Finalist Lisa Eberhahn of Mount Prospect created this dish.

      Finalist Lisa Eberhahn of Mount Prospect created this dish. Patrick Kunzer | Staff Photographer

  • Finalist Lulu Chapa of Volo created this dish, which she and her helper got done 15 minutes before the clock ran out.

      Finalist Lulu Chapa of Volo created this dish, which she and her helper got done 15 minutes before the clock ran out. Patrick Kunzer | Staff Photographer

  • Leslie Meredith of Arlington Heights cooks what turned to be the winning Cook of the Week Challenge dish.

      Leslie Meredith of Arlington Heights cooks what turned to be the winning Cook of the Week Challenge dish. Patrick Kunzer | Staff Photographer

  • The Cook of the Week Finale judges taste the four finalists' creations.

      The Cook of the Week Finale judges taste the four finalists' creations. Patrick Kunzer | Staff Photographer

  • Leslie Meredith of Arlington Heights accepts the wooden spoon trophy from Eileen Brown of the Daily Herald at the Cook of the Week Challenge Finale at the Westin in Itasca on Monday evening.

      Leslie Meredith of Arlington Heights accepts the wooden spoon trophy from Eileen Brown of the Daily Herald at the Cook of the Week Challenge Finale at the Westin in Itasca on Monday evening. Patrick Kunzer | Staff Photographer

  • Leslie Meredith of Arlington Heights hams it up with contest judge Jimmy Nicolau after Meredith was announced the winner of the Daily Herald Cook of the Week Challenge Finale at the Westin in Itasca on Monday evening.

      Leslie Meredith of Arlington Heights hams it up with contest judge Jimmy Nicolau after Meredith was announced the winner of the Daily Herald Cook of the Week Challenge Finale at the Westin in Itasca on Monday evening. Patrick Kunzer | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 11/12/2019 6:14 AM

When Leslie Meredith of Arlington Heights learned the "mystery ingredients" she would be cooking with at Monday night's Cook of the Week Challenge finale, Indian cuisine sprang to mind.

"'Hmmm, Indian. Do you really think that's a good idea?'" her mother said.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"So there you go, Mom!" Meredith said, after accepting the giant wooden spoon prize for her curry platter.

With just 45 minutes to come up with something to do with ground beef, skhug sauce, coconut-infused nondairy butter and sweet potatoes, she and her helper made a platter with beef curry and a vegetarian cauliflower curry, served with rice and freshly made piece of roti flatbread.

"I am so impressed with you making the roti from scratch," said judge Suzy Singh, a research and development chef for NOW Foods. "This is something you could find on the streets of India in a dhaba (food stall)."

Meredith said some personal problems have made the last month one of the most difficult times she has ever had. But winning the contest consoled her, especially after choosing her sister as her one helper Monday night.

"That's why cooking is a wonderful thing to do with family," she said.

The two shared laughs throughout the evening, such as when Meredith was wondering how she was going to clear leftover roti dough from her hands, or when her sister dropped one of the onions she was peeling in to a trash can -- and no replacement was available.

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"Why are we the comedy team?" Meredith said, with a laugh.

Fellow finalist Ann Wayne of Barrington found herself dealing with a red-wine reduction that went awry.

"Oh no! It's burning! Shoot! All of a sudden it just burned!" she said, staring at the charred remains wafting smoke.

On the other hand, things went so smoothly for Lulu Chapa of Volo that she and her husband finished with about 15 minutes to spare. Onlookers joked she should make a dessert.

The contest was held Monday night at the Westin Chicago Northwest Hotel in Itasca. About 400 people bought tickets to watch the home chefs cook, enjoy samples from sponsors, and learn recipes from professional chefs.

Meredith takes home a prize package worth nearly $1,500, including a new dishwasher from Novak and Parker Home Appliance. Lisa Eberhahn of Mount Prospect was the fourth finalist in the contest.

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