UPDATE: The results of the 2014 Manischewitz All-Star Cook-Off are in, and Jamie Brown-Miller of Napa is the grand prize winner.
Her winning recipe, “Waffled Latkes with Matzo Fried Chicken & Spicy Syrup,” won over the panel of five judges. Her victory gives the Bay Area back-to-back victories in the national contest, as last year’s winner was Josie A.G. Shapiro of San Francisco.
Brown-Miller received a trophy, and will also receive cash, a Saveur magazine subscription and a bundle of Maytag kitchen appliances. Manischewitz puts the value of the prize package at $25,000.
The competition was held Thursday, March 27 at the JCC in Manhattan.
Manischewitz is giving Jamie Brown-Miller a second chance.
Brown-Miller, who lives in Napa, was a finalist in the company’s national cooking contest in 2010, and this year — thanks to a format change — she is once again one of the five finalists.
“I am hoping for some redemption,” Brown-Miller said with a laugh.
“Last time, I went in with a cassoulet recipe I thought was great, but when I saw that Jacques Pepin — he is the king of cassoulet — was a judge, I figured he would throw my dish on the floor,” Brown-Miller said. “I failed, but I am persistent. I do not let a loss get to me. I take it as a chance to regroup on what I want to accomplish.”
The Manischewitz cooking competition has undergone some changes this year.
First of all, it is being called the Manischewitz All-Star Cook-Off rather than what it was called from its inception in 2007 through last spring, the Man-O-Manischewitz Cook-Off.
Secondly, the “All-Star” terminology is being used because instead of being open to cooks nationwide, this year’s contest is open only to finalists from the past seven contests — “an exciting twist” according to organizers.
Some 30 finalists from past cook-offs were invited to compete for a spot in the finals, which will take place March 27 at the Manhattan JCC in New York City, by submitting a new recipe. Four finalists, including Brown-Miller, were chosen by a panel, and a fifth was selected as the “people’s choice” entrant in an online vote.
Brown-Miller will be trying to make it two straight victories for the Bay Area, as Josie A.G. Shapiro of San Francisco won the 2013 title with her recipe, “Faux Pho.” Shapiro, a fundraiser at the JCC of San Francisco, now writes a biweekly recipe column for J.
Not only is Brown-Miller, 38, eagerly anticipating her shot at redemption, but she also has some experience in getting a second chance — and capitalizing on it. In 2010, she failed to place in the Gilroy Garlic Festival’s cook-off, and the next year she won it all.
“Second time’s a charm for Great Garlic Cook-Off winner,” blared the headline in San Benito County Today. Brown-Miller beat out seven other finalists with her recipe “Stacked Steak Napoleon on Garlic Paper with Asparagus, Radicchio, Shiitakes and Stilton.”
Her recipe for the Manischewitz cook-off this time around is titled “Chicken and Waffles,” but it isn’t quite the traditional take on the Southern favorite. Rather, it’s waffled latkes with matzah-fried chicken and spicy syrup.
“The kosher maple syrup is mixed with Sriracha [chili sauce], which gives it a kick,” Brown-Miller said.
All recipes in the contest must adhere to kosher guidelines, be prepared in under an hour and have no more than nine ingredients, including one Manischewitz broth plus one additional product from the company.
Though she is not Jewish, Brown-Miller said some members of her extended family are, and she enjoys cooking with kosher ingredients.
Brown-Miller said she came up with the recipe after tasting fried chicken and waffles at a restaurant in Napa.
“Everybody was raving about it, but I thought it could be better if it were tweaked,” she said.
Her recipe includes Manischewitz Potato Pancake Mix for the waffled latkes and Manischewitz Matzo Ball Mix to coat the chicken tenders.
The other finalists are from Miami (“Halibut Couscous”); Rockville, Md. (“Beef Tenderloin Puffs”); New York (“Latke-Crusted Chicken with Apple Cider, Mushroom and Rosemary Sauce”); and Philadelphia (“Bubby’s Noodle Studel).
The grand prize is worth $25,000 and includes cash, a trip to New York City, a crystal trophy, Maytag kitchen appliances and a subscription to Saveur magazine, which is cosponsoring the cook-off. A panel of judges will decide the winner.
Brown-Miller, who owns an insurance company with her husband, said she started entering cooking contests in 2009 and now enters a few each week.
“It’s my hobby,” she said. “I have won something as small as a package of smoked salmon all the way up to a new TV, but I haven’t won anything huge yet,” she said. For her win in the Garlic Festival contest, she took home the top prize of $1,000 — and the coveted crown of garlic.
“Though I do win here and there,” Brown said, “most of all the contests are just fun for me, almost a reward for what I like to do, which is cook, and share meals with my family and our friends.”