Ninette Holbrook Interview:
Recipe Contest $25,000 Grand Prize Winner
Mezzetta's Best Sandwich Contest (Vegetarian Category)
(Open-Faced Wine Braised Fig and Caramelized Onion Sandwich: Vegetarian Category)
• How did you feel when you found out you won the contest?
[Ninette:] I was absolutely beside myself. I still have to keep saying it out loud to reinforce the fact that I won.
• How did you come up with the idea for the winning sandwich?
I have always loved figs - fresh, dried, savory or sweet. My husband and I even planted a fig tree the year we got married. I also love caramelized onions and put them on so many dishes. I was using these two ingredients for a while on pizza and in other dishes and tweaking the recipe. Then I thought the Mezzetta kalamata olive/honey spread that I use for another dish would be a perfect accompaniment to the sandwich and once we tried it we thought "wow this is a winner" and lo and behold it was!
• Have you ever won a cooking contest before?
No, this was the first year that I began competing in the cooking contest world. I kept seeing people on TV competing and winning and thought "I can do that." Now, I am hooked and will continue to enter competitions.
• Why do you think gourmet sandwiches are becoming such a trend?
First, I think that everyone loves a good sandwich. Second, for many people sandwiches are a comfort food that takes them mentally and emotionally to a happy place. Third, the gourmet aspect just elevates the sandwich to something that is just more sophisticated and allows for more creativity and imagination.
• How long have you been using Mezzetta products? Which is your favorite?
My family is from the Mediterranean region of the world and we have been eating Mezzetta products as long I can remember, which for me would be the 1980's. Especially the olives and the Giardiniera.
• Where do you shop for Mezzetta products?
I shop at Publix and Walmart most of the time.
• Any plans yet for the prize money?
We would love to start a family one day and get a house with a little more room so this money will go towards starting a "new home" fund. Maybe a pair or two of shoes as well!
• Have you ever been to the Napa Valley?
Yes, we love Napa Valley and the San Francisco area. I have been there 5 times in the past 12 years and we were just there 2 years ago for our honeymoon.
• What are looking forward to doing during your stay?
Relaxing! Perhaps trying to eat at The French Laundry. We hear it is definitely an experience. We'll see if we can get a reservation! Also, very much looking forward to meeting all the wonderful people behind the Mezzetta brand.
• Age? (You can make this an approximation!)
Advertising Account Supervisor and lifelong foodie!
• Married? Children? Pets? Names?
I am married to the most wonderful man in the world, Dave. We have two wonderful dogs, who eat very well.
• How long a resident of Orlando, FL?
• Other hobbies, passions, pastimes?
Other than my first passion, my husband, cooking and baking! I watch Food Network all the time and subscribe to almost all the cooking magazines. I also love to travel and spend time with my family and friends.
• Anything else you would like to add?
I am amazed that my first cooking contest win is for this much money. It is just such an honor to be the Grand Prize winner, hoping I can stop pinching myself soon!!