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Stirring up culinary creations at 60 Men Who Cook

ST. CHARLES – John Hanson of St. Charles said he has been making a popular and tasty appetizer for his family for years – shrimp with a jalapeño pepper tucked inside, wrapped in bacon and cooked on the grill.

“Every year, I go visit friends of mine in Algonquin, and I bring this as an Easter appetizer,” Hanson said. 

Then, Hanson brought the appetizers to Bruce Heidlauf’s Christmas party last year “and they were gone in no time.”

Heidlauf, who owns Mill Race Cyclery in Geneva, encouraged Hanson to bring his jalapeño shrimp poppers to the big Geneva fundraising event, 60 Men Who Cook. And so he is. 

“It’s fun and for a good cause,” said Hanson, who owns Prairie Piper plumbing company in St. Charles.

The sixth annual event opens at 5:30 p.m. Friday at the Kane County Fairgrounds, 525 S. Randall Road, St. Charles. 

Tickets are $35 in advance at the Geneva Chamber of Commerce, 8 S. Third St., or at the Geneva History Museum, 113 S. Third St., or $40 at the door for participants to sample appetizers, entrées, side dishes and desserts. The event raises money to benefit the Geneva History Museum, Lions and Rotary clubs of Geneva and the Geneva Chamber of Commerce.

The local chefs volunteer to share their culinary talents. Attendees vote for their favorites in each category – People’s Choice Awards – as well as the winner of the best display or presentation.

The ticket price includes food, four chef votes and one best display vote, but additional votes can be purchased that evening as well as raffle tickets.

Heidlauf, who encouraged Hanson to participate, said this is his sixth year as one of the 60 Men Who Cook. His entry this year will be beef stroganoff on bicycle pasta – and yes, the special-order pasta is in the shape of little bicycles, he said.

“We dress up with bike aprons and jerseys,” Heidlauf said. “It’s a really fun event. It’s to support such great things in the community – everybody working together for the good.”

Also participating is Linda Krawczyk of Kaneville Township, who will be making salted caramel chocolate pecan bars. 

“I’ve been making this for family parties,” Krawczyk said. “They’re pretty good. I’m going to be making them bite-sized because they are pretty rich.”

This will be the mother of four’s first time at the event.

“I’m doing this because I volunteer at the Fox Valley Food for Health, an organization that makes organic meals for cancer patients,” Krawczyk said.

Four culinary students from Geneva High School – seniors Annie Rapach-Lagowski and Victoria Ascencio and juniors Amie Randall and Allie Starr – will be participating as The Crabby Cooks, making a classic French dessert called croquembouche – pronounced “croken-boosh.”

“It’s a bunch of cream puffs in caramel glaze, and we put them in a cone shape so they look like a tree,” Rapach-Lagowski said. “It’s complicated. And all of it is scratch-made.”

It is their first time participating, Rapach-Lagowski said.

“We thought it would be fun for our experience in the real world,” she said. “We are all considering being in culinary arts careers, so we’re looking for an honest reaction.”

Kane County Coroner Rob Russell’s candy cookie recipe comes from an old family recipe he said he’s been eating for 40 years.

“I make them with cocoa, peanut butter and oatmeal cooked on the stove top, and then they are dropped onto waxed paper,” Russell said. “They are no-bake. I’m putting my own twist on this recipe. I’m putting a chocolate kiss on it and calling it ‘Kiss of Death By Chocolate.’ ”

Don Kramer is bringing prime rib. Kramer is a Republican who will be running against Democrat Willie Mayes Sr. for Kane County sheriff in the November election.

What makes his prime rib special is the meticulous way he prepares the meat with a heavy coating of seasoning that includes salt, pepper, garlic and Italian herbs that cover every inch, he said.

“After I roast it, I let the meat rest 45 minutes so the juices migrate to the outside,” Kramer said. “Then you get meat that is pink from side to side without being raw in the middle. That is the secret.”

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