Northwestern Regional Winners

Kathy J Urbano | David E. Ross | Joseph (Joe) King

Contestant: Kathy J. Urbano
From: Coeur d'Alene, Idaho
Occupation: Counselor
Interests (Other than cooking): Gardening, sewing, reading, fishing
Ever won a cooking contest: Placed 1st in Main Dish category of Sunkist Orange Blossom Festival. Placed 1st for Main Dish category for S&W Foods. Placed 2nd in the California National Beef Cook-Off Regional in 1996.
How would a close friend describe your personality and your approach to cooking: I'm funny, easygoing, and very passionate about food and cooking. I like to divulge a few details about dinners in advance, but enjoy surprising guests with the final results. I love to entertain, and show my love for friends and family by cooking for them.
Greatest cooking influence: My Grandfather - he was passionate about cooking and loved to cook for me. Coming from Calabria, Sicily, he knew all the best Italian peasant dishes. He often let me help when he cooked.
Favorite cookbook: The Way to Cook by Julia Child. This book is full of basics and techniques. It overflows with Julia's endless knowledge of cuisine. The French sauces and desserts alone make this book a "must have."
Favorite kitchen utensil: It's a tie between my chef's knife and wooden spoon. I can't cook without either one of them. The knife allows me to create so much, and the spoon is indispensable for stirring in all sorts of pans.
Favorite vegetable: Red or green Swiss chard, sautéed with garlic and sweet onions, a squeeze of fresh lemon, salt and freshly cracked pepper.
Contestant: David E. Ross
From: Spokane, Washington
Occupation: Airline In-flight Supervisor
Interests (Other than cooking): Travel, Home remodeling, Gardening
Ever won a cooking contest: Selected to go to 2nd round of a competition last year but was unable to attend.
How would a close friend describe your personality and your approach to cooking: A great sense of humor, yet also shows a serious side. A person who desires to share the joy of discovering simple, inexpensive, and innovative cooking and food with others.
Greatest cooking influence: Julia Child - she brought fine cooking into our homes, ignores convention, and realizes that to make a perfect cookie, you have to use butter. Although she is one of the greatest cooks of all time, she displays a humble, natural manner. She truly loves food and cooking, and inspires her fans without talking down to us.
Favorite cookbook: I absolutely love 1950's cookbooks with colored illustrations. My collection of cookbooks includes many vintage versions. My favorite one, however, is my little paperback Betty Crocker Cookbook that my sister gave me when I graduated from college in 1979. Not trendy, not innovative, just plain simple instructions for how to cook.
Favorite kitchen utensil: My cheap rubber spatula. It does absolutely everything and gets batter out a bowl like no wooden spoon.
Favorite vegetable: Sweet yellow corn from the Yakima Valley here in Eastern Washington.
Contestant: Joseph (Joe) King
From: Seattle, Washington
Occupation: Computer Software Development
Interests (Other than cooking): Writing, Photography, International Film, Software
Ever won a cooking contest: No.
How would a close friend describe your personality and your approach to cooking: Patient teacher, enthusiastic critic, and natural tinkerer. They always expect to learn something new from the results of my latest cooking passion. Most would say I have a nutty enthusiasm, but that the results of my endless experimentation are usually worth it.
Greatest cooking influence: Alice Waters. Well known for her passionate advocacy of the purest, freshest ingredients, Waters presents simple, creative combinations of whole flavors from an uncommonly broad palette of new and old varieties of foods. While I've found other sources of passionate originality in the Northwest and elsewhere, I read most menus, including my own best cooking, by the light of Alice Waters' vision.
Favorite cookbook: American Cookery by James Beard. What I admire most about this cookbook is the way that Beard tells food stories through the tales and recipes of ordinary household cooks. He makes clear the prominence of home and region in the development of our American feast. American Cookery is encyclopedic - you can find almost any major ingredient and the basics of its use in American cooking. I also enjoy how many recipe variations provide historical or regional color. The cumulative effect of these variations is tremendous. Beard elevates everyday alternatives to everyday cooking, validating the pleasures and prompting the innovations that make home-cooking so delightful.
Favorite kitchen utensil: My favorite utensil is a good-quality pepper grinder. Pepper is the king of spices, the gold that drove the rare spice trade from Roman times to the European colonial empires. Today we have an easy abundance of pepper, but this indispensable seasoning still deserves and rewards care. There's nothing more important in my kitchen than a dependable pepper mill.
Favorite vegetable: My top vegetable this time of year is probably fennel. I've used many parts of the plant together, for instance stewing fennel bulb with fresh fennel leaves and flowers and dried seed. Last fall I made an astonishingly strong pesto of the hard little green pods formed after the fennel has flowered but before it develops into fennel seed. A tablespoon of this fennel concentrate added to a simple red sauce made a wonderfully aromatic and surprisingly exotic treat.

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