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Love of cooking leads to competition for Las Vegan

Las Vegan Carole Combs, a self-professed “food junkie,” says she is hooked on recipe contests.

And who can blame her after the experience she recently had upon entering the 47th annual National Chicken Cooking Contest sponsored by the National Chicken Council and the U.S. Poultry and Egg Association.

“The whole experience was breathtaking for me,” says Combs, 43. “Just to be chosen to represent your state, it was awesome.

“I have always loved to cook,” adds Combs.

Combs entered the contest after seeing an ad on the Food Network, and learned she was the Nevada finalist in December. She competed in the finals of the contest May 4 at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Center in Birmingham, Ala. Michelle Anderson of Eagle, Idaho, won the $100,000 grand prize.

Combs says she didn’t write down the recipe when she entered it and was trying to remember what she had put in the dish after learning she was a finalist.

Luckily for her, the contest organizers sent her a copy of her submitted recipe for crusted chicken with poblano-corn salsa.

Her idea for the recipe came from one she had entered in a previous Southern Living contest except with fish instead of chicken.

“I made a pizza before using roasted poblano peppers and corn and liked the taste together,” says Combs.

Combs also wanted the chicken crusted and was “having a hard time developing the crustiness” until a co-worker suggested she try cornflakes.

Combs, who works for the city of Las Vegas in the Planning and Development Department, tested her recipe out at a work Super Bowl party and at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, where she works in operations at the dragstrip on weekends.

“My co-workers are always begging to be my guinea pigs,” Combs says with a laugh.

At the competition, the contestants had to prepare and cook their meal, clean up and then prepare the meal again. The contestants were not allowed to prepare any food in advance.

“We were not able to prepare anything for the second time during the first time,” says Combs, whose recipe includes three ears of corn in the salsa portion. Combs had to shuck three ears for each meal, and also had to contend with a camera, since the contest was being filmed for a future airing on the Food Network.

“The Food Network seemed to always be right there,” says Combs, who believes the attention was because she used yellow dishwashing gloves to shuck the corn.

“I’m allergic to plants,” says Combs. “I always buy my corn peeled.”

As the state finalist Combs received an engraved silver bowl, three cookbooks, and a set of three knives and a pair of scissors from Cutco Cutlery.

She is working on a recipe to enter in the Southern Living Cook-off 2007.

The winning recipe and those of Combs and the other contestants are available online at chickencookingcontest.com and in “The Chicken Cookbook from the 47th National Chicken Cooking Contest.” For more information on ordering the book, visit chickencookingcontest.com/cookbook.cfm.

If you know of a worthy candidate for this column, mail information to Newsmakers, Las Vegas Review-Journal, P.O. Box 70, Las Vegas, NV 89125-0070, or send faxes to 383-4676.

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