Louisiana Sweet Potato group awards $3,500 to contest winners _lowres

Photo provided by Louisiana Sweet Potato Commission -- Grand prize — Katie Leithead's Sweet Potato Butterscotch Pies won the grand prize in the annual Sweet Rewards Contest sponsored by the Louisiana Sweet Potato Commission and Louisiana Cookin’ magazine.

Katie Leithead’s “Sweet Potato Butterscotch Pies” earned the grand prize in the Sweet Rewards Recipe Contest sponsored by the Louisiana Sweet Potato Commission, in partnership with Louisiana Cookin’ magazine.

This year’s contest consisted of five categories — fresh, canned, frozen, student and professional. Five first-place winners, each of whom won $500, were selected as well as a grand-prize winner of the $1,000 prize.

Participants from all over the country submitted recipes that were narrowed down to a group of finalists. Students from the Louisiana Culinary Institute in Baton Rouge prepared the final dishes for a panel of judges from the Louisiana food community.

Recipes were judged based on overall taste, visual appeal and creativity. LCI students were given the opportunity to showcase their culinary skills for representatives in the culinary community. LCI students were responsible for preparing, plating and presenting submitted final recipes to the judges.

In addition to Leithead, who lives in Lake Charles, winners were:

First place, Fresh category — Donna Pochoday-Stelmach, of Morristown, New Jersey, “Spiced Sweet Potato Squares with Brown Sugar Glaze”

First place, Frozen category — Lynn Albright, of Norwalk, Conneticut, “Sweet Potato Fry-ttata with Chorizo”

First place, Canned category — Cindy Nerat, of Monominee, Michigan, “Sweet Potato Bundt Cake with Marmalade Ribbon”

First place, Professional category — Ella Hart, of Slidell, “Sweet Potato and Sausage au Gratin”

First place, Student category — New Mexico State University student Sharyn LaPointe Hill, of Las Cruces, New Mexico, “Panini Grilled Sweet Potato Salad with Creamy Basil Vinaigrette”

The judges were Rene Simon, executive director of the Louisiana Department of Agriculture; Chris Wadsworth, chef and owner of Triumph Kitchen; Ryan Andre, chef at City Pork; Cheryl Giles, Slow Food Baton Rouge board member; Karen Profita, executive director of Louisiana Seafood; Lisa Manda, of Louisiana Seafood; Emily Sulzer, local food outreach manager for BREADA; Jeff Mattia, executive sous chef from Hyatt Hotel New Orleans; Jay Ducote, Blaire Loupe and Sydney Blanchard, all of Bite and Booze; Jennifer Jeansonne from Louisiana Restaurant Association; Eusebio Gongora, executive chef of LCI; and James Fox-Smith, of Country Roads Magazine.

The winners’ names and winning recipes are featured in the November/December issue of Louisiana Cookin’ magazine.