David Grover, a former student of the Salt Lake Community College Culinary Institute, won the World Recipe Champion award last week in the annual World Food Championships.
Grover shares the $10,000 prize with his longtime girlfriend and cooking partner Jamie Boyle of the team “The Half Baked Hippies” after preparing three dishes that wowed judges in Las Vegas. Grover’s team was one of nine category winners who beat out 400 other competitors for a chance to vie for a $100,000 World Food Champion award, which this year was won by a California cook.
David Grover and Jamie Boyle
Boyle and Grover live in Murray and have been competing in cooking competitions for the past six years in Utah and surrounding states.
“We cook for fun,” said Grover. “It’s not for winning – it’s not for anything other than going out and having fun. It’s our release – it’s our fun time. We aren’t chefs who compete or practice day in and day out in the kitchen.”
Which is why they were “shocked” upon learning they won the recipe category. To advance in the competition the pair made a “Creamy Bacon Stuffed Chicken” and then a “Chile Verde Lasagna.” The winning dish was “Wasatch Back Jack Taters,” using three kinds of potatoes, Wright Brand bacon, Land O’Lakes cream cheese, a blended queso fresco cheese infused with chile verde and cheese from Utah-based Heber Valley Artisan Cheese along with caramelized onions and jalapenos. The Unites States Potato Board was one of the sponsors of the event and potatoes had to be incorporated into the dishes in the World Recipe Championship.
Grover is the son of longtime SLCC automotive instructor Neal Grover, who as a Boy Scouts leader when his son was little cobbled together items rescued from the junk pile into the best-outfitted camps during backcountry outings with the Scouts. “While everyone else was eating cold cereal, we were eating bacon, eggs, pancakes, and fresh-caught trout with cornmeal breading on the griddle,” the younger Grover said. Grover’s father built the barbeque pit/trailer that the team uses for competitions.
David Grover took classes in the 90s at SLCC’s Culinary Institute and earned a Certified Culinarian certificate, but went on to become a compliance officer for Salt Lake City while Boyle works as a payroll coordinator for the State of Utah. But they’d someday, maybe in 10 years, like to open their own restaurant that offers an “eclectic” menu reflective of their penchant for variety in what they cook.
“That’s what really separates us apart from other people,” Grover said. “We cook what we love and we put our heart and soul into it.”