Home cook tops hundreds of pros

Published 8:49 pm Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Cobb Potato Salad

Home cook Linda Bonwill of Englewood, Fla., topped hundreds of chefs, restaurateurs and professional competitors in the World Food Championships earlier this month to take home the $10,000 Side Dish Championship prize.

Two other home cooks, Jackie Mento of The Villages, Fla., and Lori McLain of Denton, Texas, were category finalists. The WFC took place Nov. 1-4 in Las Vegas and was hosted by Adam Richman, star of Travel Channel’s “Man v. Food” and “Adam Richman’s Best Sandwich in America.”

Just A Pinch Recipes, an online community and database of user-posted recipes, partnered with the WFC to hold a recipe contest for its millions of home cook users. Twenty-five home cooks in five different categories total were selected and offered a spot to compete against the 400 other professional competitors in Vegas.

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Bonwill’s recipe for Cobb Potato Salad took her to victory.

“This is a recipe I’ve made for family a million times,” Bonwill said. “I knew it was a good one, so I thought I’d enter it. I never expected to win.”

As a category winner, Linda went head to head on the last day of the competition with the other winners in a final-table cook-off. In addition to her Cobb Potato Salad, she also prepared a Broccoli Cheese Soup with Roasted Cauliflower, which featured an imaginative use of Kraft Velveeta and Philadelphia Cream Cheese.

She was the only non-professional competing and the only woman. She finished fifth out of seven overall.

Dan Hammond, founder and CEO of Just a Pinch, sung the praises of the home cook members.

“We created Just A Pinch to celebrate the home cook and the contributions they’ve made with their cooking to their families and communities,” he said. “Having three finalists and a category winner in a competition that pitted them against professional chefs was thrilling. It is absolutely wonderful to get recognition like this for our members.”


Cobb Potato Salad


3 lb red potatoes, cubed, cooked and drained.

1/4 cup red onion, diced

Salt and pepper, to taste

2 cups mayo

1/3 cup sugar

3 Tbsp. cider vinegar

1 cup tomatoes

1 cup bacon, fried and diced

1 cup turkey breast or chicken breast, cubed

1 cup hard boiled eggs, peeled and diced

1 cup avocado, cubed

1/2 cup blue cheese, crumbles

2 Tbsp. scallions, diced (for garnish)



1. In large pot of water, cook potatoes until soft (not mushy) and drain. Add to large mixing bowl.

2. In separate bowl, mix mayonnaise, sugar, vinegar and season with salt and pepper, to taste, add to potatoes, toss. Gently add salad to a new bowl for a cleaner presentation. Chill while preparing toppings.

3. Prepare topping ingredients. Remove salad from refrigerator.

4. Layer toppings according to the order listed above, or to your preference.

Notes: Make sure not to overcook potatoes. Potatoes should be soft but not mushy to point of falling apart. Salad can be made the day before serving, adding toppings next day. Stir well before adding toppings.


Cornbread Puddle Cakes with Savory Gingersnap Gravy


Cornbread Puddle Cake

1 can creamed corn, 14.75 oz.

Cornbread Puddle Cakes with Savory Gingersnap Gravy

3/4 cup heavy cream

1 cup evaporated milk

1 cup cornmeal

2 Tbsp. sugar

1 tsp. salt

4 eggs, separated

2 Tbsp. butter, softened

Gingersnap Gravy

Mix the seasoning first

1/4 tsp. black pepper

1/8 tsp. white pepper

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. ground ginger

1/2 tsp. thyme, dried

1/4 tsp. sage, dried

1/8 tsp. cumin

Now make the gravy

3 Tbsp. butter,

1/2 cup red onions, chopped finely

1 tsp. garlic, minced

3 cups chicken stock, two 14.5-oz. cans

12 gingersnap cookies



1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

2. Heat heavy cream, evaporated milk, creamed corn, sugar, cornmeal and salt till thoroughly combined in a medium-sized heavy saucepan, stirring frequently; then simmer, stirring constantly, until thickened, three to four minutes. Remove from heat and cool for five minutes, stirring occasionally, then whisk in egg yolks.

3. Beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Whisk gently into cornmeal mixture.

4. Spread mixture evenly in six to eight generously buttered seven-ounce ramekins. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes. Be careful not to overbake. You want the middle to be very moist, but not runny.

5. While the puddle cakes are baking, combine your spices for the seasoning mix and set aside. Saute the onions and garlic in 2 tablespoons of the butter until softened but not browned, then add the seasoning mix and sauté to blend.

6. Add 3 cups of chicken stock, boiling to reduce to approximately two cups. Reducing the broth gives more of an intensified chicken broth. The time for this will vary.

7. Add the crumbled gingersnaps and heat until softened, then whisk to blend. Whisk in the remaining tablespoon of butter.

NOTE: The gravy might taste very spicy on its own, but when combined with the delicate flavor of the puddle cakes, the flavors complement each other well.

8. Let the puddle cakes cool briefly and then serve either in the baking dish or run a knife around the rim and gently remove. Serve with a generous dollop of gingersnap gravy. Because of the creamy texture of the soufflés paired with the gravy, this dish goes well with any simply prepared grilled meat.


Sticky Chicken Naan Sandwich


1 1/2 lbs. boneless chicken thighs, cut in 1-inch strips

Sticky Chicken Naan Sandwich

1/4 cup soy sauce

2 Tbsp. honey

1/4 cup sesame oil

1 Tbsp. minced garlic

1 Tbsp. rice wine vinegar

1/4 tsp. ginger

1 package naan flatbreads

1/4 cup peperoncini sandwich spread

1/4 cup red pepper relish

1/2 cup banana pepper rings, drained



1. In large resealable plastic bag, mix the marinade ingredients: soy sauce, honey, sesame oil, minced garlic, rice vinegar, ginger.

2. Place chicken thigh strips in bag of marinade. Seal and place in flat pan in fridge to marinade for 30-60 minutes.

3. Thread the chicken meat on pre-soaked wooden skewers or metal skewers. Grill over medium-high heat 9-10 minutes, until chicken is cooked through, turning about three times.

4. Heat naan slightly in microwave or on grill to soften them slightly.

5. Cut each naan into 4 lengthwise pieces to fit sticky chicken strips.

6. Spread bottom pieces with a little peperoncini spread, then pepper relish.

7. Top with sticky chicken removed from skewers, then pepper rings. Top with another naan strip.