Northeastern Regional Winners

Charles P. Sweeney | Kyung W. Chang | Joan W. Churchill
Cindy Blakeslee | Laura S. Chavoen | Tirso Perez

Episode 207 Northeastern - A From left to right,
Host Gary Rhodes; Contestants Kyung Chang, Joan Churchill and
Charles Sweeney; and Judges Tom Bergeron and Chef Richard Kaupp
Contestant: Charles P. Sweeney
From: Washington, DC
Occupation: Corporate Communications Manager
Interests (Other than cooking): Camping, Politics
Ever won a cooking contest: No
How would a close friend describe your personality and your approach to cooking? Passionate but messy. A deep respect for the classics undergirding a restless and experimental nature. "Slacker" tendencies.
Greatest cooking influence: My wife, Stephanie, who has led me in a number of different directions. In addition, her palate and blunt opinions have taught me immense amounts about combining foods, flavors, textures, and techniques between and within courses. She's also knocked me down a notch or two on occasion.
Favorite cookbook: The Inn at Little Washington Cookbook by Patrick O'Connell. It reflects a regional/seasonal sensibility that matches perfectly the ingredients available here in DC.
Favorite kitchen utensil: My chef's knife. Just picking it up makes me feel like Jerry Garcia picking up his guitar… as though I can cook anything with just that knife and a dime-store frying pan.
Favorite vegetable: Fresh heirloom tomatoes, especially Cherokee Purples, with a bit of sea salt. On a big night, I add fresh basil, good French olive oil, red wine vinegar, and back the whole thing with garlic-y chevre on a bit of toasted baguette.
Contestant: Kyung W. Chang
From: New York, New York
Occupation: Set Designer
Interests (Other than cooking): Music, Books
Ever won a cooking contest: No
How would a close friend describe your personality and your approach to cooking? Organized and creative.
Greatest cooking influence: There isn't one particular person that I can name. I appreciate anyone who has a clear understanding and genuine respect for ingredients and seasonings.
Favorite cookbook: I don't have a favorite cookbook at this time.
Favorite kitchen utensil: My chef's knife. This is where the creation begins to express all the anticipation you have.
Favorite vegetable: Artichokes. Simply blanch, then grill with olive oil, salt and pepper.
Contestant: Joan W. Churchill
From: Dover, New Hampshire
Occupation: Theatrical Designer & Teacher
Interests (Other than cooking): Travel, Wine, Quilting, Opera
Ever won a cooking contest: Entrée Finalist, Good Morning America's "Cut the Calories" Recipe Contest. Grand Prize Winner, The National Almond Board/Bon Appetit Magazine. Grand Prize Winner, Merv Griffin's "Sexy Seafood" Recipe Contest. Placed 3rd in Weber's "Asian Flavors Great Grilling" Contest. Placed 2nd in National Potato Promotion Board's "Easy Potato Recipes." Winner (daily contest) in Sutter Home's "Build a Better Burger Contest." State Finalist in the National Beef Cook-Off in Washington State and Minnesota. Semi-finalist 5 times in "Newman's Own" Recipe Contest. State Winner, New Hampshire, "Dunnewood Cooking with Wine" Competition.
How would a close friend describe your personality and your approach to cooking? I approach everything as though it were the first time I had ever encountered it, and as though it would be the last time I would ever have that opportunity. A friend pointed out that I worked that way with everything, especially food. He also noted that when I'm entertaining, I'm with my guests, not fumbling about in the kitchen. I like to design menus so that they are prepared well ahead of time allowing me to spend as little time in the kitchen as possible while friends are there.
Greatest cooking influence: Julia Child. She has been a kind of spiritual mother to so many of us growing up with her as a food mentor. She is not just a fine chef and technician, but a great theatrical personality and teacher. She brings fun to her meal "productions" without forgetting the underlying work involved in getting there. I also wish to credit Alice Waters for your insistence on using the freshest and finest produce available, as well as MFK Fisher for her brilliance as a writer and food observer.
Favorite cookbook: Mastering the Art of French Cooking, I and II by Child, Bertholle, and Beck. After reading these books, I began to understand approaches to recipes and meals. They helped me understand process, technique, and method.
Favorite kitchen utensil: My knives. They are an extension of my hands. They allow me to feel and see textures beyond the surface of the food, as well as sculpt and arrange what is cut.
Favorite vegetable: Artichokes. I prepare them simply with some pasta, sage, and olive oil.
 
Episode 203 Northeastern - B From left to right,
Contestant Laura Chavoen; Host Gary Rhodes;
Contestants Cindy Blakeslee and Tirso Perez
Contestant: Cindy Blakeslee
From: Montpelier, Vermont
Occupation: Executive Director of a non-profit environmental organization
Interests (Other than cooking): Fine crafts (metalworking, mosaics, etc.)
Ever won a cooking contest: No
How would a close friend describe your personality and your approach to cooking? I am passionate about cooking, originally driven by exposure to fine food, and rising to the challenge of reproducing that food. They would also say that cooking is often a creative expression for me, and a way to experience other cultures. My cooking is very diverse, from fine French sauces to the peasant food of many countries.
Greatest cooking influence: My mother. Her admittedly lousy cooking gave me an appreciation for fine food which I might not have had otherwise.
Favorite cookbook: The New Larousse Gastronomique has always been my favorite reference book. It has taught me the fundamentals of cooking and cooking techniques.
Favorite kitchen utensil: A good carbon steel knife. It is easily sharpenable, and it's difficult to do almost any serious cooking without a good knife.
Favorite vegetable: I recently got on a kick of roasting fresh hot peppers and using them in salsa and other dishes. The mellowness of roasted peppers adds a dimension not possible otherwise.
Contestant: Laura S. Chavoen
From: New York, New York
Occupation: Business Strategist
Interests (Other than cooking): Literature, Inline Skating, Pilates, Carpentry, Running, Sewing
Ever won a cooking contest: No
How would a close friend describe your personality and your approach to cooking? I am gregarious, engaging and outspoken. My approach to cooking is similar - I rarely follow directions, often choosing to change a little something just to see the impact. I adapt recipes to my likes/dislikes, to what is available or fresh, or what is already on hand. I have created some complete DISASTERS, at which point I pull out a sheaf of delivery menus, and we order in!!
Greatest cooking influence: My friend Miyo, who showed me that cooking is not a chore, but a wonderful vehicle for fun and friendship. She taught me many basics, and opened my eyes to the finer things in life. She started my cookbook collection with my well-worn and prized hardcover edition of Julia Child's "The Way to Cook", with a splattered and precious inscription that reads: "We'll be together when we cook no matter where we are."
Favorite cookbook: Epicurious.com I realize it's not a cookbook per se, but the search function is splendid. You can search all of the Bon Appetite and Gourmet recipes on many criteria. The content on the site is always current, updated, and consistently honest, interesting, and humorous.
Favorite kitchen utensil: My hand immersion blender. I can smooth out sauces, puree vegetables, change the texture of soups, and make fresh fruit smoothies for breakfast. It cleans in a second and only cost me $30.00!!
Favorite vegetable: Sugar snap peas. I wrap them in foil with fresh herbs and grill them, sauté them in olive oil, garlic and thyme, broil them with red pepper flakes and butter, par-boil them and add them to salads, and eat them raw!
Contestant: Tirso Perez
From: New York, New York
Occupation: Restaurateur
Interests (Other than cooking): Pugs, Legitimate Theatre, Jazz, Crossword puzzles, Achieving World Peace!
Ever won a cooking contest: No
How would a close friend describe your personality and your approach to cooking? My friends would say that I'm a loveable, witty and (high-maintenance) creative soul. They would say that I approach cooking with gusto and originality - they know my passion!
Greatest cooking influence: The many wonderfully talented, albeit "moody" chefs with whom I've worked and learned from in my very long restaurant career.
Favorite cookbook: Louisiana, Real & Rustic by Emeril Lagasse. Emeril's approach to cooking is passionate, real, and rustic (hence the title). The informality and hardiness of his cuisine is, to me, much more interesting and fun than any "French Chef" would or could create. (BAM!)
Favorite kitchen utensil: My French "Sabatier" Knife is the most important tool in my kitchen. It becomes an extension of my arm when prepping with precision is needed. It provides strength and flexibility. It's a pleasure with every use.
Favorite vegetable: Asparagus. I serve it coated with a great olive oil, grilled and sprinkled with herbes de Provence and finished with balsamic vinegar.

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