Elisa Hendricks in a promotional photo from Loblaws. Hendricks won the appetizer category in Recipe to Riches.

Former Kitimatian takes appetizer prize in Recipe to Riches program

A born and raised Kitimat woman has won prize money for her appetizer, and now looks to a possible grand prize.

Supporters can vote for Elisa’s product at the CBC’s website here.

Did you know the Sguazzin’s? Then you may already be familiar with a President’s Choice product in SuperValu right now.

Those who watch the CBC series Recipe to Riches, where competitors race to have their food chosen for cash prizes and their product in the frozen food aisle, will have seen appetizer finalist Elisa Hendricks.

And if Hendricks herself seems familiar, it’s because she was born and raised in Kitimat, and is now making a mark in the food world.

“I’ve had contact from lots of wonderful old friends and from people who knew my family, and from people who get in touch with me and say ‘your mom was one of my favourite teachers,’” Hendricks told the Sentinel following her win.

Her story has been shared widely since in Kitimat’s social media circles.

“Being from Kitimat, no matter where you go in the world you’ve got this group of people who can always have your back.”

Her award winning recipe is called Italian Lollipops, which may sound more like a dessert food, but the cheese and meat dish is anything but.

“An Italian Lollipop is friulano cheese, mortadella, in a crispy coating on a lollipop stick,” she said.

It’s been modified in some ways, especially to allow it to properly freeze and cook to be on store shelves, but in general its a recipe she adapted from her dad, Italo Sguazzin.

“It’s a family recipe that my dad brought with him from Italy and I worked on it a little bit to make it work for this competition,” said Hendricks.

A more resilient crust is among the major changes, using cornmeal.

“I think lots of people in Kitimat would have had a version of this recipe at one of my parents’ parties somewhere along the line growing up. I was born and raised in Kitimat, I was born in the old pink hospital that’s not there anymore,” she said. “My parents were always big entertainers and very active in the community and lots of people will remember them there.”

The specific ingredients in the appetizer tell a story of her family history.

“The friulano cheese is a really important part of it for me because it’s the cheese from the region of Italy that my dad is from which is called Friulano.”

Her parents Italo and mom Cindy are, understandably, very happy for her.

“My parents are just delighted and so pleased. I think in many ways this is about honouring them and that fusion of Canadian and Italian culture that I was so lucky to grow up with.”

Hendricks is still connected to many friends in Kitimat but she calls Gibsons, B.C. her home now, on the Sunshine Coast, where she commutes to Vancouver for her work in social housing.

Hendricks said she got involved in the contest after sending in an audition tape but it was part a lesson to her kids and part pursuing her passion in the kitchen.

“For me the bigger picture was really trying something new and showing my kids that sometimes you have to stick your neck out there and do something different and leave your comfort zone and be willing to take some risks and take some chances and try something new,” she said, but also noted that she’s most happiest in the kitchen with friends so her own passion for food creation played a large part.

She said she’s very grateful for the support she’s had from people in Kitimat since her win.

As for the contest itself, she said it was high energy and put herself to the test, having to create 500 of the lollipops in three hours.

“I’ve never made that many and certainly not under that kind of pressure. The way the show is you know you have to make 500…and they’re throwing curveballs at you and surprising you with what you can and can’t do in a professional kitchen.”

Public voting on Recipe to Riches products ends on Sunday,

Winning the category means in addition to having her product — complete with a caricature of herself on the box — on store shelves, she takes home a $25,000 prize.

If she manages to win the grand prize on the series finale, she’ll earn $250,000.