Edwina’s Winning Ways

21 Apr Edwina’s Winning Ways

photo courtesy of Edwina Gadsby
Edwina’s winning ways


Great Falls cook whips up top finisher in national chocolate cooking contest

By SYDNE GEORGE For the Tribune

Winning cooking contests is becom­ing old hat for Edwina Gadsby. The Great Falls woman recently learned she was a $10,000 grand prize winner in the Scharffen Berger Chocolate Adventure Contest for her Smoky Cocoa Dusted Pommes Frites with Peanut Cumin Dip­ping Sauce.

Cooks were invited to create recipes using Scharffen Berger chocolate prod­ucts and one or more of 16 specified adventure ingredients— fresh mint, gin­ger, pandan leaf, banana leaf, sumac, raw honey, cacoa nibs, chili pepper, Malbec, peanut butter, black­eyed peas, rice flour, papaya, cumin, paprika and smoked sea salt — chosen to pair well with the sponsor’s choco­late.

Inspired by her travels through France and Bel­gium where she saw street ven­dors selling pomme frites with a mayon­naise- based dip­ping sauce, Gads­by started with something she had made before, french fries. In developing her recipe, Gads­by wanted to use the unsweetened cocoa powder because she said it adds a different dimension to recipes. She ended up dusting the pomme frites with it. Working with the warm and smoky array of spices, she incorporated cumin into the mix, “and the flavor just popped,” she said, adding that the peanut butter gave a nice hint of flavor.

Gadsby was shocked when Lisa Schiffman, founder of contest sponsor tuttiefoodie.com, called to tell her she was a grand-prize winner.

“It was really a surprise,” she said.

Gadsby said this was an especially fun contest.

“I like a challenge,” she said, “and it was a chance to think outside the box. It was a lot of fun putting together fla­vors.”

Gadsby is not sure yet what she’ll do with the $10,000 that comes with win­ning, but she and her husband might take a trip in the fall to San Francisco and the Napa Valley, an area they partic­ularly enjoy. She said they are getting close to retirement, and they are saving toward that as well.

She’s been entering cooking contests for more than 10 years and typically enters eight to 10 a year.

The first contest she ever entered was one for Country Living magazine, spon­sored by Land o’ Lakes butter. She remembers flipping through the maga­zine and seeing that the grand prize was a trip to Vermont to stay in a bed and breakfast there.

“I had always wanted to go to Ver­mont, so I entered, and I won for a recipe for a baked caramel apple French toast,” she said.

Since then, she has amassed a long and prestigious list of cooking contest wins, but she said she’s not sure there is a secret to her winning ways. She likened her contest preparation to cram­ming for a test.

“I think what you should do is read the rules of each contest and get an idea of what they want,” she said. “Look at previous winners and get a feel for what they are looking for and a sense of how to use their product.”

She’s been to all the major cookoffs — the Pillsbury Bake-off, Sutter Home Build a Better Burger contest, National Chicken Cook-off, National Beef Cook­off as well as many magazine contests. She currently is in the April issue of Bet­ter Homes and Gardens for winning a dessert contest.

“I just enjoy doing it,” Gadsby said. “I think the first thing I remember doing was Christmas cookies.”

Before moving to Great Falls, Edwina and her husband Bob lived in San Diego, where she worked as an account­ant for the city. Living there exposed her to different cultures and flavors, which have been a source of inspi­ration for Gadsby in her recipe development. Being close to the Mexican border in San Diego as well as having Asian influences there, had an impact on Gadsby and caused her to get out and try new things, she said.

Now as a homemaker and self ­proclaimed “contester,” she spends her time taking care of the house and her husband and their dog. She sees these contests as a creative outlet.

“I cook every day and try to make everything from scratch,” she said, so entering cooking con­tests was a natural extension of that.

“For me, the kitchen is my workshop and I get to experi­ment,” Gadsby said. “It’s a chal­lenge to create something nobody’s done before. It’s fun to put my own spin on something, something no one’s thought of.”

The process of entering a cook­ing contest really varies, Gadsby said, adding that sometimes she’ll see a really big grand prize but she’s not inspired by the product, so she doesn’t enter.

Other times, like with the Chocolate Adventure Contest, she’s excited from the start. According to Gadsby, everybody loves chocolate, and she enjoyed experimenting with the adventure ingredients. She jumped right in and began thinking about what would taste good with cumin and ran with it from there.

For Gadsby, there seems to be a systematic process to entering the contests.

“First, I have to visualize it, taste it in my mind,” she said.

Then she does a rough draft and gets in the kitchen to start creating. She makes it once and then critiques it. Then she might make it one or two more times until it is the best it can be, she said.

Her husband Bob has had great success in the contest arena as well, entering his first contest a year or so after Edwina began entering. And just like his wife, Bob won the first contest he ever entered.

“He doesn’t have as much time to play in the kitchen as I do, but we do bounce things off of each other,” she said.

They act as each other’s critics. While Bob doesn’t love everything Edwina makes, she said he’s hon­est, and she appreciates the feed­back.

Edwina’s not sure what’s next and but said she is having fun doing what she is doing right now. The contests have allowed the Gadsbys to travel and meet wonderful people.

“It really has been a great adventure,” she said.

Here’s her winning recipe in the Scharffen Berger Chocolate Adventure Contest.
photo courtesy of Scharffen Berger


 2 tbsp. Scharffen Berger Natural Cocoa Powder (available at Pizazz)

 1½ tbsp. smoked paprika

 2 tsp. cumin

 1½ to 2 tbsp. smoked sea salt, to taste

 5 large baking potatoes (Russet or Yukon Gold), peeled

 1 quart peanut oil or vegetable oil

 ¼ cup chopped fresh oregano or cilantro, optional Dipping sauce

 1 cup good-quality mayonnaise

 2 tbsp. creamy peanut butter

 2 tsp. raw honey

 1 tsp. fresh lemon juice

 1 tsp. cumin

For Pommes Frites: Combine Scharffen Berger Natural Cocoa Powder, smoked paprika, cumin, and sea salt; set aside.

Cut potatoes into ¼-inch thick slices, then cut each slice into ¼­inch thick fries. Place in large bowl of cold (ice) water.

Heat oil in large saucepan to 325°. Drain fries, in batches, on paper towels. Fry in batches until a pale golden color, 3 to 4 min­utes. Transfer to a baking sheet lined with paper towels.

Increase oil temperature to 375°. Working in batches, fry the potatoes again, until golden brown, two to three minutes. Transfer to a baking sheet lined with paper towels.

Liberally season with the cocoa mixture. Sprinkle with oregano, or cilantro, if desired.

For dipping sauce: Whisk together mayonnaise, peanut but­ter, honey, lemon juice and cumin.

Presentation: Paper cones filled with the fries and individual dip­ping bowls make for a fun presen­tation.

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