These amateur chefs went casserole crazy

These amateur chefs went casserole crazy
Alice Proujansky

Hamburger Helper this wasn’t.

A last-minute entry won first place in the Seventh Annual Brooklyn Casserole Contest in Williamsburg on Monday night — thanks to the ingenuity and perspicacity of its creators, Patrice Callender and Nichelle Stephens.

The Brooklyn chefs fended off 40 tasty entries and took home first prize with their “Burger Casserole,” consisting of a smorgasbord of mixed hamburger meat, tomato sauce, pickles, onions, and flaky biscuits.

The judges laughed at the concoction when they first saw it — but then they tasted it and realized they had a runaway winner.

“The silly funny entry tasted extraordinary,” said judge Dan Rollman. “There were so many layers of flavors and textures. This dish raised the bar. I could imagine eating it at a restaurant.”

Callender and Stephens took the cake by outlasting a bevy of gooey dishes including Dan de Picciotto’s baked shells with truffle oil, bacon and cheese that finished second; a conservative well-made buttery pasta dish called “Pasta de Pastiche,” which placed third; and Susan Hilvert’s innovative savory bread pudding with ground lamb sausage, dried apricots and nuts which came to Hilvert’s roommate “in a dream.”

“My roommate woke me up, saying ‘savory bread pudding!’ and then shouted the ingredients,” said Hilvert, whose dish received an honorable mention. “It sounded like she was possessed by the spirit of the father of modern French cooking, Auguste Escoffier.”

But Callender and Stephens weren’t the only winners of the night. The event, held at the Brooklyn Kitchen’s Frost Street cooking laboratory, raised more than $1,000 for the Greenpoint Reformed Church’s soup kitchen and food pantry.

Reach reporter Aaron Short at [email protected] or by calling (718) 260-2547.