Living With A National Award Winning Home Cook (My Mom, a.k.a. Jilly From Philly)

This week's post is all about my Mother, Jill, a.k.a. Jilly From Philly. 

She is a Travel Consultant by day (34 years), and an enthusiastic home cook by night. My Mom has been participating in competitive cooking competitions, both online and live cook-offs, since 2009. 

If you're one of my social media friends, you have probably seen me share many of her delicious delights, including both food creations and cocktail concoctions.  To say that my family has been well fed would be an understatement. 

I wanted to share my experience of what it's been like growing up the daughter of a competitive cook.

See below for a Q&A. I hope this post has you licking your chops.

Q: When did your interest in cooking start?
A: Let's just start with the fact that I've always had an interest in eating (lol). I took an interest in cooking when Dad and I got married in 1992. We always cooked together, an activity we still enjoy today.  Food Network made it's debut in 1993, the year you were born.  I spent a ton of time watching while giving you bottles and while you napped.  Emeril Lagasse had one of the first shows and we watched him non-stop.  Who do you think "taught" me to make Chicken & Andouille Gumbo?  

Q: Who has inspired your cooking?

A: First and Foremost, Mom-Mom and Pop-Pop, your grandparents. They did a ton of entertaining and were always introducing me to foods that were new and exciting. I was lucky to have the best of both worlds. My mom cooked old country, peasant style foods such as hearty soups and stews. Real stick to your ribs kind of meals. My dad cooked restaurant style, contemporary dishes . They often took us out to various ethnic restaurants to experience exciting flavors. Some of my earliest memories include trying conch, sweet breads, frogs legs, caviar, lobster, soft shell crabs, and marrow bones. 

Q: You mentioned your parents were your primary inspiration. Do you follow any celebrity chefs? 

A:  Lidia Bastianich, Rick Bayless, Alton Brown, Ina Garten, Ming Tsai, and Marc Vetri. 

Q: How and when did you get into competing? 

A:  A close friend saw a contest she thought that I would be interested in. She knew how much I enjoyed cooking. It was a contest sponsored by Pyrex called "America's Hottest Culinary Couple" where we had to create a video proclaiming our "hotness"....(Mom is literally cracking up right now) while cooking a recipe together.  Dad actually created the recipe which was a Ramen mac-n-cheese.  If you ask him about the video, he would say I kept talking over him.  I just love the camera, what can I say!  We've both come a long way since then, but here is a link to the video if you want to see how it all began.

Q: What is your favorite ethnic cuisine to eat? To cook?

A:  It's so hard to pick a favorite.  As you would say when you were a little girl, "I want all the foods!"  Italian is probably my go to, it's something our entire family enjoys.  Moroccan, Jewish and Indian are definite favorites as well!

Q: What are your go-to home meals?

A: A pasta dish with some type of protein and a green.  Always love really good Italian Spicy Fennel Sausage with sauteed greens over Fresh Pasta. 

Q: What is your favorite cocktail to make? How did you learn how to make cocktails?

A: Do I have to choose just one?  So many, so little time.  I love a strong drink and there were so many times, while dining out, that I have felt let down after breaking the bank for a cocktail.  All fluff, no zip. I did some research and realized that I had a knack for mixing up some tasty libations.  Some of my personal favorites include:  Dilly Dirty Martini (Vodka and Dill Pickle Brine), Vodka Lime Gimlet, Cucumber Jalapeno Margarita, A French Martini and one that I learned from Pop-Pop Jules....Sweet Southern Comfort Manhattan.

Q: Do you enjoy baking?

A: On Occasion.  I don't love measuring ingredients, it's too precise for me.  I do a lot by taste.  I have had a few successes over the years.  Perhaps I need to put forth more time and effort.  I do like making fudge, does that count?

Q: Can you provide a simple recipe for your followers that they can make in under 30 minutes?:

A:  Sure!  I know simple is a relative term, and for me, it doesn't get any simpler than my Garlic Spice Oil, which I have shared in the past.  It's great for making Garlic Bread, sauteing and roasting vegetables, or even just drizzling over your favorite pasta.

1 Cup of good Extra Virgin Olive Oil (Cold Pressed)

4 Large Garlic Cloves (minced)

1 Tablespoon Italian Seasoning

1 teaspoon crushed red peppers

1/4 teaspoon Sea Salt

Several Grinds of Fresh Ground Black Pepper

In a small sauce pan, bring olive oil to a quick boil, add the garlic, stir and remove from heat immediately.  Add all other ingredients, combine well.  That's it!  You have a fantastic Garlic Spice Oil that once cooled, will last in the fridge up to 1 week.



1) Pyrex’s Hottest Culinary Couple- Top Ten Finalist- “Ramen Mac-N-Cheese” - August 2010 (Pyrex Swag)

2) Arnold Bread Spin on Thin- Category Winner. Unexpected Adventure Category- “Tail Caesar Sensation”- December 2010 - (1,000.00)

3) Olivari Olive Oil- “Proudest Cooking Moment” – Grand Prize Winner, “Let’s Escargot”- May 2011 - (400.00 plus swag)

4) Kenmore’s Cookmore 100th Anniversary Heritage Contest- Grand Prize, “Apple of My Eye”- October 2013. (Kitchen Appliances plus a trip to New York City). (My winning dish was featured at the Food Network’s New York City Wine and Food Festival)

5) World Food Championships/Las Vegas- Recipe Category (Kenmore qualifying event)- November 2013. No win, was just super excited to compete in the Olympics of food sport.

6) Jenkintown, Pennsylvania Annual Chili Cook-Off/Grand Prize plus People’s Choice Award- September, 2014- (350.00)

7) Chiquita Banana’s Cooking Lab- Week 3 Grand Prize Winner- “Coconut Crusted Banana and Shrimp Skewers with Hazelnut Habanero Mole Dipping Sauce”- October 2014 (4,000.00)

8) Davidson’s Safest Choice “Eggs For Everyone”- Grand Prize Winner/Kid’s Category- “Peanut Butter and Jelly Eggnog Smoothie”- November 2014- (1,000.00)

9) Gloria Ferrer “Glorious Bites” Appetizer Contest- Top 5 Regional Semi-Finalist NYC- “Glorious Grapefruit Lobster Tempura Bowls”- September 12, 2015- (Trip to NYC)

10) Riunite Ultimate Chili Challenge- Regional Winner (Washington, D.C.) and Grand Prize National Winner (Phoenix, AZ.) “Cherry Bomb Chili With Sweet Heat Firecracker Crumbles”- October & November 2015- (10,000)

11) MGM Resorts Int’l Recipe Showdown- Philadelphia City Champion- “Lamplighter Lobster”- June 2015. A trip to Las Vegas to compete in the Finals.

12) Arnold Bread– 2016 America’s Better Sandwich Breakfast in Bread Category Winner- “Lox Your Sox Off”- October 2016 (1,000.00)

13) Food Network Magazine- “Name This Dish” Runner Up, “Hoggin’ the Brittle”- 2016 (50.00)

14) Maple Leaf “Strut Your Duck”- 2nd Runner up - “Duck Fat Seared Scallops over Duck Sausage Cheesy Corn Grits”- November 2016 (1,000.00)

15) Kennett Square Pennsylvania Mushroom Festival Amateur Cookoff- “Exotic Spiced Beef & Silky Buttered Mushrooms over Hummus”- Top Five Finalist/ September 2018- Butter Challenge Component Winner (250.00)- Lots of great swag from several of the Sponsors: “True Aussie Beef and Lamb”, Kitchen Aid, Kennett Square Mushroom Growers.

16) Sutter Home “Build a Better Burger”- “The Cherry Best Burger”- Semi-Finalist Winner/New York- September 2018- Headed to the finals in May 2019 in Napa Valley, California for the final Live Cook-Off.

Fingers and Cherry Stems crossed! (25,000 at stake)

Stay tuned to see how my Mom does in the Sutter Home Build A Better competition in Napa Valley, in May 2019! Check out her Instagram handle here for some amazing culinary inspiration.

Bon appetite.