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'Think You Can Cook with Garlic' Contest Features Two Gilroy Natives

To countdown the days until the 34th annual Gilroy Garlic Festival, Patch will be highlighting events, food and must-know info you don't want to miss.

Editor's Note: The 34th annual Gilroy Garlic Festival is just over a week away and Gilroy Patch can't wait to savor the flavor creations featuring everyone's favorite allium sativum, a.k.a garlic, plus experience the music and entertainment set to be served up this year.

Over the upcoming days, we'll be previewing events, food and must-knows about the event, going down July 27 through 29 at .

A pair of the Gilroy’s native sons is going head-to-head against two other amateur chefs—and each other—Friday morning in the inaugural cook-off of the 34th annual Gilroy Garlic Festival.

Sean Monroe and Mike McGill, both 19, are competing in the “So You Think You Can Cook with Garlic?” contest at 11 a.m. sharp. They’ve been friends since elementary school and though the lure of a $700 first place prize—and $300 for second—is motivation enough, the college sophomores are competing for something else a little more fiercely: bragging rights.

“For me, it’s more about competing against each other,” Monroe, a biomedical major on the pre-med track at the University of Redlands, said. “The winnings are good, don’t get me wrong, but there’s a friendly rivalry about it for me.”

Monroe, who’ll turn 20 the day of the competition, will be whipping up a garlic stuffed pork chop with garlic rice while McGill will be brewing garlic chicken, garlic mashed potatoes and garlic green beans, all topped with a garlic gravy.

“We’re poor college students who had to figure out how to cook for ourselves,” McGill, a criminal justice and international studies major at Loyola University in Chicago, said. The Reserve Officer Training Corps for Air Force cadet makes his chicken with Bud Light—a very college-friendly ingredient.

A panel of judges will determine the top finishers, though it was social media that got the friends in the competition to begin with. Each prospective contestant created a YouTube video that was placed on the Garlic Festival’s Facebook page. The four cooks with the most votes got the call to compete.

“Mike and I made videos on the same day,” Monroe recalled. “When he brought out the green beans, potatoes and chicken, I was like, 'I got to step it up a little.' Mike was the inspiration for the rice.”

Both expect the hometown crowd to give them plenty of encouragement, though they fear time will be their biggest enemy.

“I’m not concerned about cooking in front of a crowd, but mine’s a time-consuming dish,” Monroe said. “We have an hour or so to cook, so my strategy is to not get too invested in the audience and answering questions.”

McGill’s looking forward to being onstage as part of the festival that put Gilroy on the map.

“In Chicago, people say they’ve heard of the festival,” he said. “We’ve gone every year and it’s going to be great to be in front of our friends and family, representing Gilroy.”

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Jeremy Barousse July 24, 2012 at 08:57 PM
Wow, it looks like Sean and Mike are talented cooks. Looks like I might have to get to the Garlic Festival early Friday to catch them in action!

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