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Editor's Notebook: Upcoming cooking contest is heating up

Published: Saturday, April 13, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

Friday, I’ll be competing in the 30 Men vs. 30 Women Who Cook competition at the Kane County Fairgrounds in St. Charles.

The fundraiser is hosted by the Geneva Chamber of Commerce, and earlier this week, Laura Rush, communications manager for the Chamber, emailed me to let me know former Kane County Chronicle editor Joe Grace had listed me as the chef he’d like to challenge at the event.

With the gauntlet thrown down, Joe and I engaged in an email discussion about the upcoming competition. An edited version of our conversation follows.

KG: So, Joe, you and I are friends. But now Laura Rush says that – out of all the chefs who are participating in 30 Men vs. 30 Woman Who Cook – you want to challenge me. What are you cooking? And, more importantly, what makes you think you can top the chili I’ll be making?

JG: OK, old friend, this is how it’s going to go down. I’ll be making my famous Going for Gusto Gumbo. And by famous, yes, I mean edible. Now while it’s true I’ve never made gumbo before, I’ve also never made most foods before, so I believe my vast experience with not making foods is really going to help me in this competition. Also, as a longtime veteran of these fundraisers, now in my fourth year of competitively cooking as a man, I have the added bonus of knowing how to properly panic at 2 a.m. the night before when I realize I still have 200 portions of an item to make. So, I believe the real question is, what makes you think your chili can top my panic-flavored gumbo?

KG: I’ll give you the “veteran” factor. But I have something even bigger going for the chili I’ll be making – Fat Pete’s Chili, as this chili is called, already has won a first-place award for best chili. That was at a work function a few years back. The chili is made with an array of beans, meat, peppers, spices and other ingredients. What are you throwing into your gumbo?

JG: That chili sounds awesome. As for what I’ll be throwing in my gumbo, that’s a secret, even from myself. This is because I may or may not know what actually goes into a gumbo. Chicken and sausage and rice and other stuff, right? I’m sure I can figure out the other stuff by next week. Are you looking forward to your first true cooking competition?

KG: I am definitely looking forward to the event. I attended last year and really enjoyed the atmosphere and tasting the different foods. You?

JG: I love this event! It was one of the highlights of my year when I was editor and continues to be so afterward. There are so many chefs who – unlike me – are very talented and prepare some simply delectable morsels. But I must know one more thing. Your chili – does it have a secret ingredient?

KG: I will be honest. One of the characteristics of this particular chili is that it has no exact recipe. The chili is named after my dad, Pete (hence the name). I’ve made the chili with my dad since I was a little kid. We don’t use measuring cups or teaspoons. It’s a can of this one day and a dash of something else another. But it’s always good. Anyway, I do wish you the best of luck Friday. May the best chef win!

• Kathy Gresey is editor of the Kane County Chronicle. Contact her at kgresey@shawmedia.com or 630-845-5368.

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