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Winner of Your Best Leeks

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Congratulations to for the love of the south, whose Buttery Braised Leeks with a Crispy Panko Topping won the contest for Your Best Leeks

1. Describe an early food experience that has influenced the way you think about food and/or cooking.
Being from Louisiana, my endless summer nights were filled with Cajun music, family, friends and the aroma of crawfish seasonings that lingered, not so subtly, in the air. I grew up believing that food was more than just sustenance; it meant one moment in time when the world stopped and everyone came together and brought something to the table. Whether it was my grannie who brought her lemon meringue pie, our neighbors that provided the live crawfish for the boil, or my uncle, who seemed to contribute by way of lively conversation. Everyone brought an offering.

This is when I learned that food doesn’t have to be elegant or fussy, it just needs to be shared with the ones you love. I’ve tried to embrace this theme of Southern hospitality and tie it into every dish I offer.

2. What's your least favorite kitchen task?
Doing the dishes, of course!

3. If you could only have one tool in your kitchen, what would it be and why?
Cast-iron skillet. And here's why:

• It’s the most prized possession in my household.
• It's Perfect for frying anything from hushpuppies to bacon.
• It is the ideal vessel for the most amazing cornbread, ever.
• All you have to do is wipe it clean, no scrubbing needed (did you see my response to number 2?).
• It’s like cheese -- it gets better with age.

4. What is your idea of comfort food?
Anything pasta, especially if it’s macaroni and cheese. Here is my favorite recipe.

5. What is your greatest kitchen disaster?
One early Saturday morning I got up the nerve to cook bacon in the oven. I preheated the oven, sprawled out each slice of bacon on the cooling rack with a roasting pan underneath, said a prayer, and popped the bacon in the oven. Right as I was about to pat myself on the back, the smoke alarm started going off, which set off every single alarm in the house. Within moments, the kitchen filled with hazy, bacon-laden smoke. Suddenly, I heard a fire truck in the not-so-distant distance. Yes, the fire fighters arrived and began mocking as they caught me desperately trying to shoo the smoke out of the house with a cookie sheet. The result: getting the stink-eye from the neighbors and family members for a week, being humiliated in front of fire fighters, and -- really, really crispy bacon. 

Tags: Q&A, Contest