Home Chef Taking Part in Bay Area Cooking Competition

The Big Dish gets some Local Flavor

Friends and family know that Herlinda Heras can cook. Now the question is how she will stack up to the competition in KOFY's new cooking competition show, The Big Dish.

This long time Rohnert Park resident who grew up in Novato is pretty well known for her love of cooking along with her ability to whip up amazing meals. She regularly puts her culinary skills to work for charity as she happily auctions off 'homemade themed dinners' for charity fundraisers.

One such auction tipped the scales at more than $1,200 for an evening enjoying Herlinda's kitchen creations, so it should be exciting to see how her prowess translates to a competition.

The Big Dish is a head-to-head cooking competition show on KOFY TV 20. The concept is similar to Chopped, in which two chefs are pitted against each other and given a certain amount of time to whip up a signature dish. A panel of judges then taste both dishes before deciding on the winner.

The show is hosted by Clark Wolf, who acts as one of the judges. The concept features various locations and notable cooking personalities around the Bay Area. Restaurants such as The Girl in The Fig, The Cliff House, and Lake Chalet will be featured along with their owners.

Herlinda's episode, which premiers at 9:30 p.m. Dec. 16, was filmed in October at the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco. One of Herlinda's good friends, Jurgen, was a master chef instructor at the CCA and has proudly proclaimed her, "One of the best home chefs he has ever seen."

That connection certainly helped make new acquaintances with the master chef instructors at the Academy during filming.

For her episode they started by shopping at Canyon Market in San Francisco and then it was off to the kitchen where she made her go-to dish of salmon en papillote for judges Clark Wolf, Nancy Oaks and Jarad Gallagher.

These amateur cooks all had to send in videos of themselves cooking in the kitchen. Herlinda's friends from the Bite Club all kept telling her she had to do it so a friend took a short video of her with an iPhone and the next thing she knew the producers were calling to talk to her.

While she might have been a little nervous, it was doubtful that it showed. When it comes to cooking, Herlinda is a natural who started in the kitchen when she was about 4 years old. Her mother and father had a big influence on her and felt that learning how to cook was an important part of life.

Her dad was a career Navy man and Herlinda grew up as a Navy brat with roots all over the place. Twice she lived at Hamilton Air Force Base in Novato and still as quite a few friends in the area from her childhood.

While her mom worked with more traditional Spanish and Italian fare that matched her background, her dad would make Korean barbecue and her family was eating sushi before it was a trendy choice. From there her love of all things culinary continued.

She made her first Thanksgiving dinner when she was 11 at Hamilton. Part of the reason she became so good at it was that her mom allowed her to do and try so many things in the kitchen. As a result, not only is she fabulous in the kitchen, but both of her daughters are pretty good cooks as well.

Her youngest, Autumn, attends the Ranch in Rohnert Park while her oldest is becoming quite the accomplished photographer along with attending the SF IEC.

Along with loving food, Herlinda loves to travel and has been all over the U.S. and parts of Europe. Last year she was in Spain, Paris and London where of course she had to visit Anthony Bourdain's favorite spot, St. John.

So what else does Herlinda do when not cooking for friends and family? Her current career involves being an agent for New York Life where a big focus is providing long-term health care insurance. In the past she was an ambulance driver and one thing she noted was the number of women in care facilities not always receiving the best care after spending their lives caring for others.

At first glance this venture would seem to be a far cry from her days at Sonoma State University getting a degree in biology, but Herlinda feels it is related because, "Cooking is like a science."

Christina Scherer December 14, 2012 at 05:41 PM
Good Luck, Herly! We're all rooting for you!


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