Western A & B Regional Winners

Episode 204 Western - A From left to right,
Host Gary Rhodes; Contesteant Marion Stevens, Heather Rizzoli and
Gail Singer; and Judges Jaclyn Zeman and Chef Mark Peel

Gail Singer | Heather H. Haugen Rizzoli | Marion Stevens

Contestant: Gail Singer
From: Calabasas, California
Occupation: Real Estate Agent
Interests (Other than cooking): Scrabble, Crossword Puzzles, Running, Politics
Ever won a cooking contest: Placed 1st in the Calabasas Pumpkin Cookoff with a Pumpkin Mousse Cheesecake
How would a close friend describe your personality and your approach to cooking? They would describe me as thoughtful, outgoing, and positive. My cooking approach would be described as obsessive, eclectic, and creative. I want whatever I prepare to be perfect and will spend hours prepping, experimenting and arranging foods.
Greatest cooking influence: My grandmother, Tillie. She was a fabulous cook who rarely used recipes and always created delicious food. It was my grandmother who encouraged and taught me to experiment in the kitchen.
Favorite cookbook: The Dessert Lover's Cookbook by Marlene Sorosky. Desserts are my specialty and this cookbook has great recipes and easy-to-follow directions. It has never failed me for technique and has been the basis for many new creations.
Favorite kitchen utensil: My KitchenAid hand mixer. It's easy to use and lightweight, yet still has heavy duty capacity.
Favorite vegetable: Fresh snow peas. I love them quickly stir fried with minced garlic and ginger in peanut oil.
Contestant: Heather H. Haugen Rizzoli
From: Livermore, California
Occupation: Self-employed
Interests (Other than cooking): Music, Painting, Home Brewing, Folk Dancing, Writing
Ever won a cooking contest: Placed 1st in a number of 4-H cooking programs. Won a Guittard Chocolate Contest with a chocolate seashell cake, and a Hormel Contest with chili calzones
How would a close friend describe your personality and your approach to cooking? Friends describe me as generous, spontaneous, experimental, yet logical and educational. I'm known for making huge portions of food and making sure that nobody goes away hungry. I used to be quite messy in the kitchen but have discovered that I can be freer and more creative when my counters are clutter free.
Greatest cooking influence: My parents. Much of our lives was centered around the kitchen. Everyone helped out in preparing large meals. As they passed on their cooking skills, my parents also educated me about nutrition. My father influenced me with his scientific and experimental approach to cooking - nothing was ever made the same way twice! My mother, however, was a purist and stuck to the tried and true. I have learned how to combine both styles in my cooking.
Favorite cookbook: Ancient Roman Cooking by Apicus. I believe it is the oldest cookbook known today and have recently noticed various culinary magazines showcasing some of these ancient recipes.
Favorite kitchen utensil: My 8-quart stainless steel bowl! I can go out into the garden and gather fresh herbs and produce. It also allows me to make very large batches of food. A friend recently showed me a psychological test where I had to choose between a circle, box, triangle, or squiggly line. I chose a circle and learned that "circle" people are generous and love to surround themselves with family and friends. Perhaps this is true of "bowl" people, too?
Favorite vegetable: Snowy white eggplant. I love to use it in a stir fry. It is a long eggplant and great sliced, cooked, then cooled and used cold in an Asian noodle salad. Mashed with garlic and butter, it makes a great Persian dipping sauce.
Contestant: Marion Stevens
From: Orange, California
Occupation: Retired. Part-time floral designer
Interests (Other than cooking): Collecting vintage fabrics, Sewing, Restoring old furniture
Ever won a cooking contest: No
How would a close friend describe your personality and your approach to cooking? Friends say that I care very much about making people happy and comfortable, especially with food. I approach my cooking with creativity and will tackle any recipe and not give up until I've conquered it. I enjoy the challenge of recreating memorable meals I've made for friends.
Greatest cooking influence: There are two of them….Pierre Franey and Madeline Kamman. They are both classical in their techniques, no gimmicks or fads. Madeline Kamman's cookbook, "When French Women Cook", gave me a real appreciation of food and the women who prepare it. And Pierre was so enthused about his cooking, it was contagious. I just loved watching him.
Favorite cookbook: Lidia's Italian Table by Lidia Bastianich. I like the directness of the recipes and that they always turn out exactly as I expect them to. When I watch her cooking programs, I'm always inspired - she has such a love for food.
Favorite kitchen utensil: My PepperMate pepper mill. The handle is on the side and it really puts out the cracked pepper with very little effort. And, of course, my food processor.
Favorite vegetable: Asparagus. I like it all ways, but lately I've been grilling it until barely tender - very good!
Episode 208 Western - B From left to right,
Contestants Martina Thurlow, Baron Long and Josie Aaronson-Gelb
Contestant: Baron Long
From: Petaluma, California
Occupation: Professional Sales
Interests (Other than cooking): Art, Wine, Golf
Ever won a cooking contest: No
How would a close friend describe your personality and your approach to cooking? My friends would describe me as a high-end professional cook with natural talent, who aims to please all with my culinary talent.
Greatest cooking influence: Jeff Cox - the "Frugal Gourmet." He taught me that "frugality" is a way of maximizing flavor at minimal cost.
Favorite cookbook: Bistro Style Cuisine by Chef Caprial Pence. She is my favorite cookbook author because she taught me about presentation. It is crucial. Food can be as simple as you want it with good presentation.
Favorite kitchen utensil: The knife. It is the tool that I use at all times in the kitchen. I also must appreciate the knife, or it will punish me.
Favorite vegetable: Eggplant. I like it crusted with buttermilk breadcrumbs, fried, and served with lemon sour cream.
Contestant: Martina Thurlow
From: Napa, California
Occupation: Attorney
Interests (Other than cooking): Wine-tasting, Gardening, Star-gazing
Ever won a cooking contest: No
How would a close friend describe your personality and your approach to cooking? My name means "warlike". I believe my friends would agree that meaning is apt in my fearless approach to just about everything, especially food. Last month I killed my first rattlesnake (we have recently moved to the countryside in the hills of the Napa Valley); once I calmed down, I began wondering if I could cook the damn thing. My husband, who can read my mind, promptly buried it.
Greatest cooking influence: My oldest sister. She is an artist and food is her palate (pun intended!).
Favorite cookbook: The Saucier's Apprentice. I love sauces and this book has guided me through the miraculous three-day process of creating the very best sauce bases which are not available even at our local "d and d's" (Dean & Deluca market).
Favorite kitchen utensil: My KitchenAid mixer. It handles beautifully everything I throw into it. What a tank!
Favorite vegetable: Asparagus. I like it steamed, with no butter - just a touch of lime juice.
Contestant: Josie Aaronson-Gelb
From: Oakland, California
Occupation: Public Relations
Interests (Other than cooking): Hiking, Acting, Reading, Creative writing
Ever won a cooking contest: No
How would a close friend describe your personality and your approach to cooking? I have a lot of energy for the things I love - my friends, my family, and my refrigerator. My roommate would call me a food fanatic. My friends would say that my approach to cooking is to make a ton of food and then round up as many mouths as possible for an impromptu party. My best friend says she can't help but get enthusiastic around me and a stove top - the energy is contagious
Greatest cooking influence: My mother. She took classes at the Cordon Bleu in France and has taught me everything I know about food. When I was eight years old, she gave me a recipe box and encouraged me to collect my favorite recipes in it. Over the years, her cooking style has changed, and mine with it. Now she and I both turn to the Alice Water's school of cooking and use fresh produce and clean flavors to bring out the best of every ingredient.
Favorite cookbook: I really don't have a favorite. Reading weekly newspaper food sections and monthly national magazines (Gourmet, Saveur, Bon Appetit, etc.) are my favorite ways to get recipe ideas.
Favorite kitchen utensil: My Microplane Citrus Zester. I would be lost without it. It removes zest from citrus without touching the pith. It shreds cheese without hurting your wrist, and it transforms a block of chocolate into a fine, shredded powder. It's great for garnishes and incorporating paper thin flavor-shreds into batters and sauces.
Favorite vegetable: Sugar Snap Peas. I prepare them simply - sauté a few diced onions in butter, add the snap peas and julienned mint and cook until tender crisp.

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