Southwestern Regional Winners

Mary Boyd | Kristen Ritchie | Herman Y. Liu

Contestant: Mary Boyd
From: Garland, Texas
Occupation: Outside Sales Account Manager
Interests (Other than cooking): Family, Reading, Antiques
Ever won a cooking contest: No
How would a close friend describe your personality and your approach to cooking: Simple, fresh and unique. From the heart.
Greatest cooking influence: Julia Childs. She was the pioneer. The master of her time.
Favorite cookbook: It's more like my favorite of the month. Right now I'm in love with Weir Cooking in the Wine Country by Joanne Weir. Last month's favorite was Baking with Julia.
Favorite kitchen utensil: Kitchen Aid heavy duty mixer. It whips, kneads, mixes, grinds - it does it all for me. Second favorite - the mandolin.
Favorite vegetable: At the moment I'm crazy about eggplant. I love it roasted with olive oil and garlic. I like it on the grill, or layered with mozzarella and roasted tomato.
Contestant: Kristen Ritchie
From: Enid, Oklahoma
Occupation: Vice-President, Greater Enid Chamber of Commerce
Interests (Other than cooking): Fishing, Hunting, Travel, Camping, Reading, Entertaining
Ever won a cooking contest: I was successful at our local fair in the breads and canned goods categories.
How would a close friend describe your personality and your approach to cooking: My closest friends describe my cooking as creative, make-something-from-nothing, easy-going and fast. My sister has said that, in a pinch, I could make gravy from water and air.
Greatest cooking influence: Julia Child and my mother. Julia was and is a great influence because she was the host of the first cooking show I ever saw on TV. My mother is a continual influence because she has always encouraged me to develop my abilities as a cook.
Favorite cookbook: The Joy of Cooking by Rombauer and Becker. This book is clear, complete, diverse, and always up-to-date. As a reference tool, it has every basic recipe that I have ever needed and may ever need. I really enjoy expanding and/or changing the basic recipes to meet my needs.
Favorite kitchen utensil: My favorite kitchen utensil is a set of tongs. With this versatile tool, I can stir, pinch, pick up, flip, pull out the oven rack, and complete a host of other tasks without burning my hands or getting them messy.
Favorite vegetable: My favorite vegetable at the moment is fresh spinach wilted in a little olive oil, onion, ginger and garlic. Sometimes I add a little sesame oil, nuts or vinegar to the recipe, or add it to another recipe for color and flavor.
Contestant: Herman Y. Liu
From: Edgewood, New Mexico
Occupation: Management Consultant
Interests (Other than cooking): Gardening, Painting, Skiing, Camping
Ever won a cooking contest: Yes. I was the State finalist from Texas in the 1996 National Beef Cooking Contest with a recipe called "Cajun Rib-Eye Burgundy."
How would a close friend describe your personality and your approach to cooking: Friends describe me as laid-back, fun-loving, and deeply caring, yet edged with a degree of self-deprecation and perfectionism. Those personality traits are readily evident in my cooking style. While I refuse to take myself too seriously, and am flexible with ingredients and end result, I also refuse to serve any dish that does not satisfy my palate and sense of presentation.
Greatest cooking influence: My mother. Living on a meager income and feeding a family of six, she was still able to turn the simplest of ingredients into masterpieces. She taught me four crucial lessons: keep the ingredients simple and fresh; be creative with seasonings and flavors; time the preparation not in relation to serving sequence, but with respect to how well a dish holds up; and, finally, present each dish as tastefully as it tastes.
Favorite cookbook: All Around the World by Sheila Lukins. Full of creative inspirations, this book is a great read that also exposed the reader/cook to the variety of seasonings and ingredients that define cultural cuisine. I especially enjoy the recipe format that suggests guidelines and templates to creating wonderful dishes rather than exact, scientific steps.
Favorite kitchen utensil: A pair of wooden chopsticks. Partly due to my Chinese heritage, I have always found chopsticks to be the all-purpose preparation tool. Even in a modern kitchen equipped with every electrical gadget, I feel lost without my cooking chopsticks by my side.
Favorite vegetable: Asparagus. I like it blanched quickly in chicken broth and lightly seasoned with flavors that complement the meal. For example, a touch of balsamic vinegar and a grating of Romano cheese for an Italian meal; a squeeze of lemon juice and a sprinkle of fresh oregano for a Greek meal; or, a few drops of soy sauce and a dusting of toasted Chinese peppercorns for an Asian meal.

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