2013-10-25 / People

Inspired recipe leads to contest win

By Alex Acquisto
Staff Writer

Donna Speirs of Kennebunk recently won Hood’s cream recipe contest with her caramel croissant bread pudding. The recipe will be printed on the side of all Hood’s cream containers for the next year (Courtesy photo) Donna Speirs of Kennebunk recently won Hood’s cream recipe contest with her caramel croissant bread pudding. The recipe will be printed on the side of all Hood’s cream containers for the next year (Courtesy photo) KENNEBUNK – Donna Speirs, a local real estate broker, recently placed first in New England for Hood’s annual Chef Creations Inspired by Hood Cream contest for her caramel croissant bread pudding.

Placing first earned Speirs a cash prize of $2,500, as well as the placement of her recipe on all Hood cream containers for the next year.

“I just combined things that I love to eat,” Speirs said of her savory dish, which includes ingredients such as pecans and walnuts –”because I wanted a crunch,” she said – and espresso. “A couple of years ago chocolate would’ve been in there, too, but I’ve broken away from that,” Speirs said wryly.

Hood, a national company that distributes dairy products nationwide, is based in Lynnfield, Mass., and has been in operation for more than 160 years.

According to a press release earlier this month, Hood’s cream contest was part of a larger campaign that “ran in conjunction with the Hood Cream Chef Inspirations Food Truck tour.”

The tour demonstrated “how Hood Cream is trusted by professional and home chefs, alike,” and also illustrated “the variety of restaurant-quality dishes that can be created using Hood cream.”

Speirs entered Hood’s contest last year, but didn’t make it to the semifinals. She wasn’t planning on entering again, but when the time rolled around, Speirs said she figured, “Why not?”

“I got addicted to affogato this summer,” Speirs said.

Affogato is an Italian dessert comprised of hot espresso poured like hot fudge over vanilla ice cream or gelato. “And I love croissant bread pudding because it’s light, so I just threw things I would like in a pudding,” Speirs said. “I love the taste of espresso, and of course, caramel, so I figured, why not?”

Speirs’ at-ease nature around the kitchen stems from her Italian father, she said. “As a kid, for my first 26 years of life, Sundays revolved around one thing: the Sunday Italian dinner,” Speirs said. “We had to be there every Sunday for the dinner and we had these fabulous, fabulous meals. I think that had a big influence as far as developing my taste buds.”

“My dad wouldn’t allow us in the kitchen when he was cooking, and when he died, he left no recipes. Over the years I’ve searched and found a cookbook similar to the food he cooked,” said Speirs. “Even now when I cook Italian I never use a recipe, and sometimes when I find a recipe I like, I have to tweak it to make it interesting,” Speirs said with a laugh.

Speirs has had no formal training as a chef, but rather, she’s learned through osmosis. “I’m a real estate broker, but obviously I’ve had a very diverse working background,” she said.

Speirs lived on the West Coast for part of her adult life and met a handful of respected chefs, which led her to working in kitchens.

When she moved back to the East Coast, Speirs spent time working at Stonewall Kitchen in York.”

Chefs came in from different restaurants and I would have to assist them by doing things like writing their recipes,” Speirs said.

Now, in her 60s, Speirs says her skills are sharp and her taste buds astute.

“I love to go to a restaurant, having something absolutely delicious and being able to figure out what’s in it just by taste,” she said.

The contest was judged by three celebrity judges from around New England, including Jeff Landry of The Farmer’s Table in Portland. The judges whittled the pool down to 30 semifinalists from the region, which included Speirs’ twin sister from Massachusetts for her “Yummy, Creamy, Wonton” dish.

Speirs plans to use part of her prize money to buy tickets for herself and her twin sister to a Red Sox game.

“I really love doing these contests,” Speirs said. “I love writing recipes, I love entertaining people. One of the big joys of my life is eating, so guess what my life is like?” Speirs said. “Whenever I travel, I revolve the experiences around food, because everywhere, that’s what brings people together.”

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