Corbin H. Crable
After years of searching, one Gardner resident and her daughter have finally found a recipe that really cooks — and the pair will unveil it a competition at the Kansas State Fair this weekend.
Stephanie Skeem and her 13-year-old daughter, Brianne, an eighth-grader at Wheatridge Middle School, will prepare their recipe for a Philly Cheesesteak Bacon Sandwich at the Kids in the Kitchen Beef Cookoff on Saturday at the Kansas State Fair. The cookoff is sponsored by the Kansas Beef Council.
Sharla Huseman, director of marketing for the beef council, said this will be the third year the organization will sponsor a beef cookoff at the fair, but it is the first year children have been allowed to participate. The competition is open to children ages 9 to 13, Huseman said.
Recipes must be prepared in 30 minutes or less, using no more than eight ingredients. As one of eight pairs of finalists in the cookoff, Stephanie and Brianne will prepare their dish onstage for the competition’s judges.
But the two have already been hard at work perfecting their recipe (which appears with this story), spending hours in the kitchen and preparing the dish – with slight modifications each time, of course – for the rest of their family.
“Usually, (feedback) is positive, but we have four kids in our family, and sometimes they’re picky eaters” Stephanie said. “The other night we made it and everyone said, ‘This is the best one yet – but maybe you should add more pepper.”
As they continue to perfect their sandwich recipe, Stephanie and Brianne said the biggest challenge of preparing for this weekend’s competition is keeping one eye on the clock.
“We’ve been practicing the recipe over and over again, but we have a time limit, and getting that down is a challenge for us,” Stephanie said.
Years before finding the sandwich recipe and preparing it for a cooking contest at their family reunion, Stephanie said she noticed at a young age that Brianne had a passion for cooking and working in the kitchen.
“She started (her interest in cooking) years ago when she was spending time with her grandma,” Stephanie said. “One time, Brianne was hungry and said she wanted a snack, and grandma taught her how to make scrambled eggs. She makes the perfect scrambled egg to this day. Ever since then, she’s been helping me out in the kitchen, and she does do certain recipes by herself.”
Over the years, Stephanie and Brianne began watching programs on the Food Network, where they received plenty of cooking tips and inspiration. Watching the channel together is still a family affair, Stephanie said.
“We love the Food Network. Our favorite show is ‘Top Chef,’ and we’ll get ideas here and there,” she said. “We like to get recipes online and in the stores, too, and try out new things.”
But more important than making the perfect philly cheesesteak sandwich is the time Stephanie and her daughter have spent together in the kitchen.
“We love to cook together. We have fun in the kitchen,” Stephanie said. “We’ll turn on our favorite CD and sing along. We end up talking, laughing and having a blast.”
Brianne, who said her favorite dish to prepare with her mom is fettucine alfredo, said that’s one of her favorite parts about being in the kitchen.
“I enjoy cooking because I love spending time with my mom,” she said.
And one of the beef council’s primary goals is promoting that time families spend together at the kitchen and the dinner table, Huseman said.
“We’re trying to put a focus on family meal time,” she said. “As we all know, family meal time is going by the wayside. We thought this would be a good way to promote cooking and eating together, as well as encourage cooks to get involved at a young age.”
Regardless of the outcome of this weekend’s cookoff, Brianne said she plans to continue learning all about cooking — and even had a bit of advice for would-be chefs.
“Just practice and have a wooden spoon in hand,” she said.