Article written by Englewood Sun Newspaper (printed Aug. 6, 2014) August 07 2014

Bonwill cooks up food, fun and fame
Sun Intern 

ENGLEWOOD — Linda Bonwill’s cooking skills weren’t acquired in a gourmet chef school.
Growing up in Connecticut in an Italian family, a love of the craft as a communal activity was instilled in her from a young age. She has memories of her grandmother rolling out pasta noodles and making cakes from scratch for sick family members. Sometimes ingredients were scarce, and the family had to make do with “extras” left over from other meals. Frugality and improvisation were essential to family meals. Her husband — also from an Italian family — has similar experiences. 
Those early childhood experiences with cooking in the home followed Bonwill as she raised four children of her own. She read labels on grocery items and tried to stick to wholesome homemade dishes when possible. In the fall, she bought pumpkins with her kids and they made pies together. In her words, she was always “teaching them the value of good food.”
She jokes that her son Michael once asked her to buy a cake for him at the store, only for her to return home with a cake mix he’d have to use to make it. Bonwill insisted that all her children, even those who didn’t share her passion for cooking, “at least learn how to follow a recipe.”
Learning the value of self-sufficiency and how to thrive as an adult continues with her grandchildren, who get an opportunity to switch off social media and engage in memory-making. When Bonwill entered a competition through the online recipe club, Just A Pinch, her primary motive was fun. But she won grand prizes, and she credits the money she earned from that competition with providing the funding necessary to compete in the 2012 World Food Championships. Her mindset upon entering the Championships was “to soak it all in, observe and come back with some knowledge,” to continue to learn the craft with passion.
Her initial entry for her category — a potato salad that includes bacon, avocado, blue cheese and tomatoes — won her the highest score among the top 10 side dishes. Her broccoli cheese soup, which included a roasted cauliflower garnish and a sweet chili sauce topping, won the final round, and Bonwill believes that it was her innovative use of the required food sponsor product, Philadelphia Cream Cheese, and a related sponsor product, Kraft Velveeta Cheese, that impressed the judges. She was awarded $10,000. Bonwill has already qualified to re-enter the Championships held this fall, but she is still looking for sponsors.
Even as she continues to participate in worldwide culinary competitions, Bonwill prioritizes giving back to Englewood, which she describes as a “tight-knit” community. In addition to her work with the Big Brothers Big Sisters Foundation, she shares her talent with local kids through cooking lessons, including candy making. But even in these lessons, as in her own personal experiences, cooking can express life values.
“I try to make it educational,” she says. “I say, look kids, the table’s a mess! What would happen if I put these clean boxes down?”
Bonwill makes sure to keep the kids involved and to engage their minds with skills for good living.
Her culinary advice is to keep it simple, using only a “handful of ingredients” that will stand out when tasted.
“I consider the basic homeowner,” she says. And while Bonwill agrees that creativity certainly counts in a competition, she doesn’t think judges expect or want anything fancy or complicated. Taking a cue from her humble beginnings in the craft at her grandmother’s table, Bonwill believes that she won in 2012 because “I kept it real. I kept it me.”
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