How did you get interested in cooking?
Watching my grandmother cook when I was a child. Then when I started in the fire service, everybody cooks, so I figured I might as well get competent at it. That is when I realized I loved to cook.
What’s your favorite thing to cook at the station?
Red beans and rice with Mexican cornbread.
What’s your favorite thing to cook at home?
Lasagna with garlic bread.
Best cooking tip: Keep it simple, especially while spicing. Too many spices can mess a meal up faster than anything else. Also, plan ahead. The biggest mistakes I’ve ever made in the kitchen were when I didn’t plan ahead. It will prevent you from overextending yourself.
Joe’s Italian in Alabaster. The food they put out is great.
How are you preparing for Iron City Chef?
Right now, my prep is planning the menu and figuring out timing for the dishes. Chief Jim St. John and assistant chief Marvin Green have given me every resource available to be successful in this competition. I want to represent Vestavia Hills Fire Department well and put the best dishes I can in front of the judges.
Creamy Chicken Enchiladas
“This is my wife’s favorite thing that I make,” VanHooser said. “She insisted that I send this recipe.” Smart man.
- 2 pounds of chicken breasts
- 1 medium yellow onion
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 can diced green peppers
- 1 can diced black olives
- 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
- 10 large tortillas
- 8 ounces Colby Jack cheese
- 1 pint whipping cream
- Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Boil the chicken until cooked through. Let cool enough to handle, then shred the chicken.
- Medium dice the yellow onion.
- Heat the tablespoon of butter in a pan over medium high heat. Sauté the onion until softened and translucent.
- Add the cans of diced peppers and black olives to the onions and let cook for 1 minute.
- Add the shredded chicken to the mixture of onions. Lower the heat to medium. Stir in cream cheese until completely combined and the mixture is even.
- Place even amounts of mixture into tortillas and roll into enchiladas.
- Place the enchiladas into a large pre-greased Pyrex dish.
- Grate the Colby Jack cheese and put on top of the enchiladas.
- Pour the whipping cream on top of the cheese evenly throughout.
- Place in oven for 45 minutes. The sauce will be thickened.
What’s Cooking in the Iron City Chef Kitchen?
Here’s what the contestants plan to serve in the first round of this year’s Iron City Chef cooking competition.
Guests will sample each chef’s food and then vote for their favorite. The top two vote getters will move on to face each other in the finals.
• Lee Currie was choosing between two menus at press time: Boston butts with macaroni and cheese or meatloaf with mac and cheese and turnip greens. Either way, he’s adding fried cornbread. For dessert, he’ll make a cobbler.
• Alexander Glover will dish up pasta shells stuffed with beef, Italian sausage and cheese and topped with a red sauce. He plans to offer key lime pie for dessert.
• Edward Pegues will stir up shrimp and grits as his main course with banana pudding for dessert.
• Trey VanHooser will serve herb-roasted roulade stuffed with apple chutney, goat cheese and mashed potatoes with focaccia bread and, for dessert, bananas Foster bread pudding.
Journal photos by Kaitlin Candelaria