WINNING RECIPE – Red Deer’s Nelson Lacourse recently returned from the D’Italiano Cook Off Challenge in Toronto where he landed in the top five finalists of the national competition.

Local man beats out hundreds of foodies with recipe

Nelson Lacourse named one of five finalists during national competition

One local man beat out hundreds of foodies and was named a top five finalist in a recent recipe contest.

Nelson Lacourse, 26, showed off his mouth-watering Four Cheeseapeno Popper Pizza Bread during the D’Italiano Cook Off Challenge in front of a Canadian Living reader audience in Toronto. The cook-off took place earlier this month and was hosted by Canadian comedian Colin Mochrie.

Lacourse, the director of finance for the Red Deer Rebels said cooking has always been something he has enjoyed.

“I grew up with my mom and I was more influenced in the kitchen instead of working in the shop or working on cars or pounding nails. I always have been cooking. My mom was always worried that I would starve. It kind of escalated after I left home.”

There was $25,000 at stake and even though Lacourse didn’t take home the top prize he said overall the experience was a good one.

He added he stumbled upon the recipe contest by fluke. “I signed out of my Hotmail account and this advertisement came up on the MSN.ca web site. I clicked on it and I thought I would give it a shot. I had never been to Toronto before and I thought it would just be fun.”

To enter, contestants could submit a picture or a video online.

“I thought if you put in more effort you would likely get further, so I did a video. I’m not even really sure if I made it for my cooking. I think I may have made it for my humour.”

After the entry deadline, in which more than 200 people from across Canada entered, friends and family were able to vote for the contestants and ultimately five finalists were chosen– two from western Canada, one from Ontario, one from Quebec and one from the Atlantic provinces.

“We got to Toronto and we got to hang out with all of the other finalists. It was really friendly. It wasn’t a competition where people were trying to sabotage anyone else. Most of the other finalists had actually been to cooking contests before. One guy owned his own spice company and three of them had entered over a dozen cooking competitions and had won. I didn’t really know what I was getting into,” he said with a laugh.

Before the competition, which took place on May 10th at Evergreen Brick Works, Lacourse said he was introduced to the sous chef that would be working with him. “That was neat because I’ve never really had that before.”

The competition was a ticketed event and sold out quickly. There were 200 audience members.

The contestants had 10 minutes on stage where they spoke to the audience and explained how to make their recipe.

“It was kind of like a cooking show where everything was ready in stages and everything was pre-done. I didn’t realize how hard it was to try and cook and talk at the same time. Your hands and your mouth don’t do the same thing at the same time,” he said. “Afterwards the audience got to come around and try your food and meet you at your station. It was like a wine and cheese kind of atmosphere.”

He said going into the competition he was nervous, especially since he was up against some seasoned competitors.

“I had a lot of fun, but I was still nervous. Before the competition I went around like a chef does at a restaurant and tried to meet all of the guests and I had no problem doing that. But once I got on stage I was a bit nervous.”

Lacourse said the idea behind the Four Cheeseapeno Popper Pizza Bread came from his love of a few foods.

“I love pizza and my mom has always made the best pizza – so that’s how the pizza came about. I consider bacon as the fifth food group, so that was a no-brainer. I decided to throw a mango in there and then decided to make the jalapeño popper and put mango in it. I then put it all on pizza bread. I turned two great appetizers into one.”

He added he loves to break all the rules when he’s cooking and said the biggest reward is making something new and delicious for someone else and seeing how they react after their first bite. “I try to get a ‘BOOM’ out of everyone I cook for. I also like to experiment in the kitchen. If I’m making spaghetti or lasagna it never really comes out the same. I like to use recipes but I don’t really follow them.”

To check out Lacourse’s recipe and other recipes from the five finalists visit www.ditaliano.ca.

efawcett@reddeerexpress.com