Thuy Nguyen Crawford of Burlington, Ont., won ACE Bakery's "Canada's Best Sandwich Contest" Friday with a Lemongrass Steak Banh Mi and coleslaw inspired by her Vietnamese heritage and the need for hearty nosh at her 10-year-old son's ball games.
"It's a sandwich that I've been making for my eldest son for the baseball diamond and they love it," said Crawford, 41, who's married with three children.
"They said, 'You should just enter (the contest),' and I thought, 'What do I have to lose?'"
"This is a home run!" exclaimed celebrity chef Lynn Crawford, one of the contest judges, as she tried the winning dish in a cookoff at Toronto's Calphalon Culinary Centre.
"Get rid of the hot dogs at the stadiums and let's have that!" she said later with a laugh.
Crawford, the contest winner (who bears no relation to the aforementioned chef), took home $5,000 for herself and $5,000 for a charity of her choice. She picked the Alzheimer Society of Hamilton and Halton because her mother has vascular dementia.
That's on top of the money she and the other three finalists from across Canada got for winning the regional contests ($1,000 for themselves and $1,000 for a charity of their choice).
Lemongrass Steak Banh Mi comprises marinated, grilled and sliced sirloin on a white baguette with a spicy garlic aioli. The marinade includes lemongrass, fish sauce, honey, garlic and Thai chili peppers.
Though the dish may sound fancy it's actually simple to prepare, said the full-time mom, who also works part-time helping her husband run their IT business.
"It literally took me less than half an hour," said Crawford, who came to Canada from Vietnam in 1980 and has no professional culinary training.
"I think that having a fast-paced life, like our kids and work, doesn't mean that we can't eat well."
The other finalists, chosen from almost 1,000 recipe submissions, were: Montreal's Mike Diciero and his breaded Italian veal cutlet with marinated vegetables on foccacia; Edmonton's Christopher Delaney and his seared chicken thighs and thick smoky bacon with guacamole and cilantro on a roll; and Paul Arsenault of Lower Cloverdale, N.B., for his grilled and butter-basted lobster tail with Dijon aioli on olive loaf.
Chef Crawford, Gemini Award-nominated host of "Pitchin' In" on Food Network Canada, was joined on the judging panel by ACE Bakery co-founder Linda Haynes and company master baker Marcus Mariathas.
They judged the dishes on three criteria: portability, ease of eating, and taste.
"I'm inspired," said Crawford, owner of Toronto's Ruby Watchco restaurant and the Ruby Eats store.
"You bet some of these recipes you'll see at Ruby Eats."
After the event, chef Crawford said she planned to donate $5,000 on behalf of Ace Bakery to a Ryerson University Radio and Television Arts scholarship named in honour of her late friend Ross Lewchuk, who was a television editor.
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