They’ve done it again — the Half-Baked Hippies have won another major cooking competition, this time the Recipe category of the World Food Championships.
I wrote about David Grover and Jamie Boyle in this week’s Standard-Examiner column. The duo went to Las Vegas Nov. 12-18, and wowed judges with their Creamy Bacon Cheddar Stuffed Chicken Breast, Southwest Chile Verde Lasagna, and Wasatch Back Jack Bacon Taters. Judges’ scores are based on the EAT criteria — execution, appearance and taste.
Although they didn’t win the grand prize (it went to chef Ricardo Heredia of San Diego), Grover said he and Boyle exceeded their own expectations. Since there were about 400 professional chefs and amateur cooks, many repeat contestants, they didn’t expect to get very far in the competition.
“We just went down there to have fun cooking,” said Grover.
The event picks a first-place, $10,000 winner in each of nine categories: Recipes, Dessert, Bacon, Burger, Chili, Sandwich, Seafood, Pasta, and Barbecue. They go on to compete in the “Final Table” for the $100,000 grand championship.
Cooks from around the world receive a berth at the World Food Championships after winning some type of sanctioned cooking contest. Grover and Boyle, who call themselves the Half-Baked Hippies and cook in colorful tie-dye outfits, were tapped for winning the Dutch Oven World Championship Cook-Off in March.
They were presented with a giant check for $10,000, and a chance to compete in the Final Table, where they placed ninth.
Grover noted, “To us, it feels good to know we put our best effort in and completed the journey. Success is valued differently by different people.”
They also enjoyed rubbing shoulders with cooks and chefs from all around the world, and are now trading recipes and cooking ideas with some of their new friends on Facebook.
Grover, who works as a compliance officer for Salt Lake City, has a culinary background. At 15, his first culinary job was at Congregation Kol Ami in Salt Lake City making kosher food for the Sabbath. He completed a high school culinary program, apprenticed at the Salt Lake County Club and also worked at Cucina deli. He also worked in the kitchen at the Utah State Prison, overseeing daily food preparations.
In fact, back in the early 2000s, I remember Grover competing in one of the Beehive Chef Triple Crown competitions that I judged. He was either still a culinary student, or a fairly new grad. I remembered him, because you didn’t often find novice chefs throwing their hat in the ring to with some of Utah’s premier chefs, as the competition is fierce. Some of the judges could be brutal (not me! I was always accused of being the softie!) But, it’s also a great way to learn how improve your cooking talents.
He ended up putting a culinary career on the back burner, “Because I needed a job with benefits, and a government job provided me with the benefits I needed.”
So he cooks as a hobby now, competing in Dutch oven and barbecue cook-offs. He began cooking with Jamie after his Dutch oven teammate Damon Faust was tragically killed in a car accident about five years ago. He had met Jamie through Match.com and they were already seeing each other.
“So that’s how she got roped into it. She’s a payroll coordinator with the State of Utah, so neither of our careers lend themselves to our hobby.”
When the duo won the Dutch Oven championship, they were using some of Damon’s recipes, so it was a nice homage to his memory.
It’s not just the cooking they enjoy, but the fellow competitors.
“I wouldn’t trade the friendship and comradery for any size check,” said Grover. “The friends I’ve made along the journey are priceless.”
Grover said most of their $10,000 prize money will be used to finance future cooking competitions. They plan to defend their title at next year’s World Food Championships, which will be in Florida.
Here are two of their prize-winning recipes.
Creamy Bacon Cheddar-Stuffed Chicken
7 Chicken breasts, butterflied open.
4 ounces (half of an 8-ounce block) cream cheese, at room temperature.
2 cups Gouda cheese, shredded.
1 cup smoked bacon cheddar cheese, shredded (preferred; Heber Valley artisan cheese)
4 cups crushed salad croutons
1/2 cup finely shredded Cheddar (preferred: Heber Valley raw milk Cheddar)
4 eggs, whipped
1/2 cup half-and-half
2 cups heavy flour.
Seasoning salt to taste.
Salt and pepper to taste.
About 2 cups wilted and drained spinach (we wilt ours in 2 tablespoons butter, and a little salt and pepper)
4 cups corn oil.
On a stove, place 4 cups of oil in a 12-inch saute pan over medium heat. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a mixing bowl combine the cream cheese, Gouda, smoked bacon Cheddar, and dash of pepper, then set aside. In a bowl, combine the breadcrumbs and raw cheddar with a dash of seasoning salt ,and set aside.
In a clean bowl, combine flour and some seasoning salt, then set it aside. In a bowl, blend the eggs and half-and-half, and season with salt and pepper. Take each butterflied chicken breast and open it up like a book, season with salt and pepper, then place a gracious amount of the cheese filling in the center lengthwise, garnish with spinach, and roll up the chicken tight around the cream cheese and seal the edges.
Place in a cool spot until they are all rolled. Dip the chilled chicken breasts in the seasoned flour, and then into the egg mix, and then into the crumb mixture; make sure to keep it tight.
Place them on a parchment lined baking sheet seam down, until they are all breaded.
Kick the heat up to 350 degrees for the oil, and start frying them. Place the chicken seam down in the oil and turn as needed to make evenly golden brown. Once they are golden brown, place on a clean piece of parchment. Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes, then drop to 350 degrees until the internal temperature is 155 degrees, and let the temperature continue to rise to reach 165 when done. Let the chicken rest for five minutes before serving. Garnish and enjoy!!!
Cooks note: Most of the cheese for these recipes was sourced from the Heber Valley Artisan Cheese Company in Midway, Utah.
Wasatch Back Jack Bacon Taters
6 medium size potatoes, diced 1/4 inch
1 pound bacon, diced
1 yellow onion, diced 1/4 inch
2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and chopped
8 ounces cream cheese
8 ounces shredded Wasatch Back Jack Cheddar Cheese, divided
Salt and pepper to taste
Brown the bacon, and drain as much of the bacon fat as possible. Add onions and peppers and cook for 5 minutes. Add in the diced potatoes and cook for another 5 minutes with the lid on. Add in the cream cheese and half of the shredded cheese. Bake in the oven at 350 degrees for 45 minutes stirring every 10 minutes until potatoes are soft. Stir in the remaining cheddar cheese and place back in the oven to melt the additional cheese. Stir and serve.
Cooks note: The cheeses specified in the recipe are sourced from the Heber Valley Artisan Cheese Company in Midway, Utah.
Valerie Phillips can be reached at www.chewandchat.com