Escoffier Graduate Wins Dinner with Food Network’s Ina Garten

Robin Cazan’s culinary adventures truly began after graduation. After receiving her certificate through Escoffier Online International Culinary Academy, she went on to publish a cookbook of her own titled Soup It Up! While most may have been satisfied with this accomplishment, Robin kept looking higher. She entered the “Dinner with Ina” contest and is one of two winners who will be flown out to New York City to eat at a fine dining restaurant with one of her cooking idols, the Food Network’s Barefoot Contessa, Ina Garten. We recently sat down with Robin to discuss her culinary journey up until now and the doors that are still open ahead because of those first steps she took with Escoffier Online.

Escoffier: You recently were picked as one of the two winners for a food contest! Tell me about that?
Cazan: I noticed a posting on Ina Garten’s (Food Network’s Barefoot Contessa) Facebook page: “Join me for dinner!  I’m writing an e-cookbook using my Barefoot Contessa Sauté dinners as the main ingredient.  I’d love to see how you’re serving your Sauté Dinners.  Post a photo of your dinner pairing or new creation to Twitter, Instagram or Facebook.  Then I’ll invite the two people with the most creative ideas to bring a guest and join me for dinner in New York City!”  
Ina just happens to be my ALL-TIME favorite celebrity food personality. I thought this could be the one way that I might have a chance to meet her.  So I immediately visited local supermarkets in pursuit of her frozen Sauté Dinners.  Of her nine Sauté Dinners, I was able to find seven—the rules stated that you could enter as many times as you wish as long as they met the Submission Requirements set forth.  I had so many ideas of what I wanted to make I had to write everything down so I could start organizing.  And then for the next eleven days the contest ran, I was in non-stop creative mode!

Escoffier: How did you pick your submitted dishes?
Cazan: I submitted seven entries with the hopes that one would be the winner.  Having watched Ina for so many years, I took into consideration how she cooks and writes recipes—quick, simple, familiar with a twist and of course, fabulous flavor.  The dishes I made hit on a variety of meal occasions—breakfast/brunch, lunch, appetizers and dinner.

The two dishes that won me the honors were:

1) Beef Bourguignon Purses – “I took your fabulous Beef Stew Bourguignon and created an easy yet elegant dish—Beef Bourguignon Purses.  The filling is topped with Gorgonzola cheese, enclosed in puff pastry and garnished with fresh parsley.  To round out the meal, serve roasted asparagus and red Burgundy wine.”

 2) Shrimp Scampi & Vegetable Frittata – “I know how much you love frittatas.  I also know that you like to take a recipe that you are familiar with and change it up a bit.  This dish is a variation of your Shrimp Scampi and Linguine Sauté Dinner that’s perfect for any meal—breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner—Shrimp Scampi & Vegetable Frittata served with Roasted Kale & Cherry Tomatoes.”

robin cazan competition photo


Escoffier: What did you win?
Cazan: Both myself and the other winner won a trip for two to New York, NY.  The trip includes roundtrip air transportation; roundtrip ground transportation to/from airport to the hotel; 2 days and 1 night’s accommodation at  hotel determined by Sponsor; and dinner with Ina Garten at a fine dining restaurant to be determined by Ina Garten and Sponsor.  The trip will take place on June 5th.  I am beyond excited!!

Escoffier: What made you participate in this contest?
Cazan: I participated in this contest primarily because I wanted the opportunity to meet Ina.  But I also liked the fact that Ina would be selecting the winners herself—it wasn’t based on popularity—how many Twitter and Instagram followers or Facebook friends you have.

robin cazan competition photo 1


Escoffier: During the contest, did you refer back to any of the teachings you gained during your time at Escoffier Online?
Cazan: Yes, I did refer back to some Escoffier teachings during the contest.  For one of my dishes I wanted to get the cuts just right—julienne carrots and bell peppers. I referred back to the Knife Skills & Classic Cuts module from Escoffier Online.  But even more significant was the overall confidence I gained from Escoffier Online.  Photographing and writing about the various dishes for each module was an invaluable exercise.  I applied that same discipline when I photographed and wrote about my dishes for the contest.

Escoffier: Anything else you would like to add about your experience?
Cazan: I would add that in entering this contest, there was nothing to lose.  Even if I hadn’t won, it was a great experience and a perfect segue into one of my next food adventures—food blogging.  I would also add that the experience and learning from Escoffier Online opens up the doors to so many opportunities in the wonderful world of food.

Photo Credit: (Robin Cazan)

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