We have a Winner!

You heard it here first, hopefully. The Top Chef It Yourself first challenge ended a few days ago and you voted for your favorite ‘getting to know you’ recipe.

Casey from Eating, Gardening & Living in Bulgaria won you over with her version of a Lavender Creme Brulee.  Give her a round of applause as I bestow upon her the TCIY badge for the month!

I’m sure you would like to know more about Casey, so I took the liberty of asking her a few questions. Read what she has to say.
 
When did your fascination with cooking begin? Tell us what got you started.
My fascination with cooking has existed for some time now.  My parents aren’t really culinarily inclined, so almost every year we would go to my Aunt’s house, who is very Martha Stewart-esque.  She introduced me to the joys of pie making, so the first thing I learned was how to bake pies and cookies.  It wasn’t until I moved to Bulgaria that I really started to cook regularly and experiment with more complicated dishes.  Being from New York, I quickly got bored with only have Bulgarian cuisine.  I wanted variety, so I worked on replicating things I missed from home.
 
Kyust-whaat? How does a NY girl end up in Bulgaria?
I ended up in Kyustendil because this is where my husband’s family lives and we moved here to be closer to them as they are getting on in years.  I am not going to say it was an easy adjustment, but I do like living here.  Everyday is an adventure and that is the attitude that I try to keep.
 
What have you learned about cooking, growing and living in Bulgaria?
Bulgaria has taught me the value of fresh ingredients and seasonal eating. In the US, we are spoiled by the fact that we can eat what we want when we want.  Produce here is only available till it is gone.  In the spring you have lettuce and you eat lettuce for two months, then no more lettuce.  Plus, there was just one variety, green leaf lettuce, no mixed greens to be found, which was hard to adjust to.  Trips to the grocery store were very frustrating. So, I bought some seeds and made my own garden, dedicated to growing what I wanted, so for the past 3 years, I have been exploring gardening as a way to bring my cooking to the next level.
 
Tell us about an ingredient you don’t like to cook with
I avoid cooking with offal.  I just don’t like it!  I am adventurous enough that I don’t need offal in my repertoire.
 
Do you have any suggestions for variations to your Creme Brulee?
Creme brulee is like a blank canvas… you can infuse it with anything.  Next up, I have some jasmine blossoms, which are itching to become a dessert.  I will keep you all posted on my success!
 
Aside from yours, tell us which 2 dishes submitted by the other participants you’re most likely to prepare.
All the other entries sounded delicious, but I love custard based desserts so, Jan’s Choco-Kahlua Flan is right up my alley.  Second, Kitchen Masochist Purple Yam Cardamom Cheesecake is such a bizarre creation that I am willing to hunt down the ingredients to try it!
 
Doesn’t she sound just awesome? Casey didn’t mention this, but she is currently working/training as a chef at the Hilton Hotel in Sofia, Bulgaria, while juggling her love of food and gardening.
 
 Again, I would like to thank all the participants for January’s challenge and invite you once again to check out the entries. Remember we will have a new set of ingredients for February, so stay tuned!
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