Saturday, September 5, 2015

Is Devon woman 'America's Best Cook'?

Christina Verrelli is one of 16 home cooks competing in Food Network's new six-week competition series, America's Best Cook, premiering at 9 p.m. Sunday, April 13. Top prize is 50 grand.

Is Devon woman 'America's Best Cook'?

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Alex Guarnaschelli with her "America´s Best Cook" foursome (from left): Myles Powell, Hannah Gruber, Christina Verrelli and Brenda Jackson.
Alex Guarnaschelli with her "America's Best Cook" foursome (from left): Myles Powell, Hannah Gruber, Christina Verrelli and Brenda Jackson. FOOD NETWORK

Christina Verrelli, the Devon substitute teacher and food blogger who won $1 million in the Pillsbury Bake-Off in 2012, goes national once more.

She is one of 16 home cooks competing in Food Network's new six-week competition series, America's Best Cook, premiering at 9 p.m. Sunday, April 13. Top prize is 50 grand.

The cooks - who are expected to turn out restaurant-quality grub - are divided geographically into teams of four mentored by Cat Cora (South), Tyler Florence (West), Alex Guarnaschelli (East) and Michael Symon (North), and must face the requisite elimination challenges. Ted Allen hosts.

Tina has experienced pressure before - as one of 100 contestants at the Bake-Off contest, she baked in an oven she had never seen before, in a hotel ballroom, with a timer hanging over her head and amid a minor media circus.

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"But this was amped up," she said. "It was almost a triathlon of cooking competitions." Contestants on the show can get help from their mentors.

"This took my cooking to a whole different level," said Verrelli, 45. "We used equipment I've never used before and there was a whole pantry of items I have never seen before."

Take duck breast.

A staple on restaurant menus, it would be a canard to assert that it's a staple in most home kitchens. "I never cooked duck anything in my life," she said.

Tina, who subs four days a week in Tredyffrin-Easttown, called the show a fun break: "I really enjoying learning new things. If you always stay in your comfort zone, you're never going to grow as a person.

(See her Pillsbury Bake-Off million-dollar recipe for Pumpkin Ravioli with Salted Caramel Whipped Cream here.)
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Michael Klein, the editor/producer of philly.com/Food, writes about the local restaurant scene in his Inquirer column "Table Talk." Have a question? Email it! See his Inquirer work here.

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