3 Illinois Valley chefs advance to Top 5 in favorite chef competition

Voting is open through Thursday, June 20

One of Hejl's favorite French delicacies to create gougère, a savory cream puff made of choux dough mixed with cheese. Hejl typically uses gruyère

Three Illinois Valley chefs Charles Klinefelter, executive chef at Starved Rock Conference Center; and Jill Hejl, a cooking instructor at Illinois Valley Community College; and Sara Fitzpatrick, continuing education instructor at IVCC and small business owner; each qualified as a Top-5 contestant in “Carla Hall presents Favorite Chef” – a competition featuring the best chefs from across the U.S.

Klinefelter’s portfolio showcases items ranging from red meats such as lamb and beef to poultry and fish. He has been in the business for 48 years.

Hejl said she enjoys creating complex recipes and adding her own twist, discovering new flavor combinations, new techniques and making a recipe work with what she has on-hand.

Fitzpatrick’s portfolio said she is a passionate chef who makes creative and innovative dishes that are adaptable.

“Growing up my mom would cook a lot from scratch,” Fitzpatrick said. “I loved helping and cooking with her; then, I stumbled into the food industry as my first job and from there I began to love creating and making all different kinds of foods and dishes.”

The winner of the Favorite Chef competition will receive a $25,000 prize, be featured on the cover of “Taste Home” magazine, a publication that celebrates the joy of home cooking while offering cooking tips and heartwarming stories. Winners also will have the opportunity to cook with celebrity chef Carla Hall, who rose to fame in “Top Chef” and “The Chew.”

Klinefelter said if he were to win he would take the opportunity to travel across the U.S. on a food voyage from coast to coast.

Hejl said she would love to open a bistro and tea shop where patrons could come and enjoy sweet and savory treats in the European tradition.

Fitzpatrick said if she were to win she would buy a small kitchen or a small restaurant.

To vote for Favorite Chef, visit https://favchef.com. Voting is open through Thursday, June 20.

People can vote free daily or pay for additional votes. The contest proceeds support the James Beard Foundation, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to support the people behind America’s food culture and push for new standards in the restaurant industry.

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