Western Springs home cook brings local flavor to PBS' 'The Great American Recipe' challenge

Season two of “The Great American Recipe” premieres Monday, June 19, on PBS, and Ted Pappas, a semiretired architect from Western Springs, is one of the cooks chosen to reflect the breadth of diversity in American home cooking.

Each episode, hosted by Alejandra Ramos, challenges the cooks to showcase two of their beloved signature dishes as they compete to win the national search for “The Great American Recipe.”

Pappas grew up in a traditional Greek American household headed by immigrants: a first-generation father and a third-generation mother. His grandfather owned a supper club in Chicago in the 1960s, where Ted's mother worked. She passed down happy memories of entertaining at the club, instilling a love of social gatherings centered around food in her son.

Pappas, whose cuisine reflects his family's deep Greek roots, says he's proud to represent Greek Americans, Chicagoland and the Midwest on the show.

“It was a very cool experience so far, with more fun stuff to come this summer.”

Each episode contains two recipe challenges, and the contestants bring their strengths as their heritage, backgrounds and family recipes come into play. At the end of each show, one cook is eliminated from the contest.

“Yes, someone will be leaving the barn, as we say,” Pappas said. The show is filmed in a barn.

With each challenge, the cooks tell a story about why they prepared a particular dish.

“I love to hear the stories,” he said. “I like the personal significance of the recipes. We tap into our backgrounds and our heritage.”

Celebrity judges Leah Cohen, Tiffany Derry and Graham Elliot are back for season two and offer their professional insights and deep culinary knowledge to the contestants.

“The judges were super helpful in the feedback they gave,” he said. “Being a home cook, it's fun to get that feedback.”

He says it was great when they explained how another way would have worked better in a dish, but “it's great when they tell you something you did worked really well, too. It's a validation on how I prepare food.”

While he can't say how far he went in the competition or the challenges, his overall experience was good. “This was an uplifting, positive and encouraging experience.”

As for watching it all unfold along with family and friends this summer, Pappas says he's excited to watch. “I have to say that all of the home cooks on this series made amazing dishes, and people who watched season one will love this one as much or more.

“It will be fun to see the episode of the premiere. We're holding a big watch party.”

As for the food he will serve his guests, he says he'll make them something special.

“I'm preparing one of the dishes I made in the first episode.”

Pappas shares his recipe for Pork Souvlakia with Tzatziki here today.

In episode one, cooks are challenged to come up with their best in-a-pinch recipe and a noodle dish representing their heritage.

The eight-part competition cooking series will be broadcast on Mondays starting at 8 p.m. June 19 on WTTW Channel 11.

• Contact Food Editor Susan Stark at or (847) 427-4586.

Pork Souvlakia & Tzatziki Recipe

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