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Joe's Journeys

The great garlic gal


MADISON (WKOW) -- Madison has a new national champion.

Her name is Laurie Benda.

The full-time English teacher at MATC has won the Great Garlic Cookoff in Gilroy, California.  

It's one of the most well-known cooking contests in the world -- and it's the next stop on Joe's Journeys.

Laurie Benda's walnut garlic tart is to die for.

Thousands begin with a dream -- but only one ends up with the garlic crown.

That crown belongs to Laurie. We caught up with Benda in the kitchen at MATC. It's a far cry from her English class, but it's where she feels right at home.  Amongst the garlic and other goodies she used to bring home the garlic.

"I brought a sample here of the chili syrup which is part of the recipe that won the garlic festival contest," Laurie Benda says. 

Her chili syrup is drizzled over her winning tart when it's finished. Laurie asked me to try a little over some fresh vanilla custard to give me an idea of how her recipes come together. First in her mind, then in her kitchen.

Laurie's recipe has a little heat on your taste buds - but it's smokin' hot on the national cooking scene. She does all of this messing around with garlic and other food, for fun.

"Cooking is really relaxing for me," Laurie says.  "It's kind of the time I get by myself in the kitchen.  A nice focus.  It's just like any hobby, I get to kind of escape into it.

Her summer getaway to Gilroy was also an interesting escape.

"They call themselves the garlic capital of the world and the whole town smells like garlic. Everybody says that, it's absolutley true, it smells like roasted garlic there," she says.

But back home in Madison, her mind is already cooking with new ideas. She shared some of the ones that include garlic with us here in the kitchen. If the way to your heart is through your stomach -- Laurie knows right where to aim.

"It should be like butter so you just kind of get what you can," Laurie says. "Spread it on your bread, as much or as little as you like that's almost a whole clove, then if you eat this it keeps your co-workers away from you for the afternoon? That is a great way to use it."

If anybody would know it would be Laurie Benda  -- the woman who wears the one thing that can never be taken away from her -- the garlic crown she won for winning the great garlic cookoff in Gilroy, California.


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