A family recipe is worth $10,000

April 2, 2013

By Avneet Singh Chattha

Issaquah resident Gus Campanario never imagined that a delicacy from his childhood, peachy keen ceviche, crafted by his mother, could help him win a national competition.

Campanario, a fan of Del Monte products, found the company’s “Add Some Garden” contest the perfect opportunity to have some fun with his favorite recipes.

Gus Campanario

Gus Campanario

The purpose of the contest is to get customers to create great, healthy meals, according to Brian Ng, Del Monte director of marketing. The premise is that contestants should use a Del Monte product to freshen up a recipe.

When Campanario saw the “Add Some Garden” contest ad on Facebook, he was immediately intrigued since “Del Monte products are something that is always in the pantry.”

Cooking has become second nature for Campanario, a 47-year-old husband and father of two.

“My dad owned a restaurant, so I always was around guys that cooked. As I grew older, it was just comfortable” to cook, Campanario said during a recent lunch-hour phone interview. “He was always the one that did a lot of the cooking in the house, so I’ve kind of just followed that path.”

The Del Monte “Add Some Garden” contest started Nov. 5, featuring five phases, each of which featured a different vegetable or fruit: green beans, corn, tomatoes, peaches or pears. Contestants were asked “to send in tips about how they use the week’s featured product in a tasty dish,” according to the contest website. Phases were open for submission for five days.

The top finalist for each respective Del Monte product was chosen, and then fans voted for the best one.

“The five winning tips for each phase went head-to-head for a final vote,” Ng said.

Even with the immense amount of talent Campanario has with cooking, he did not win on his first attempt.

“When I entered the first couple of weeks, I struck out,” Campanario said. “I kept going back and making minor tweaks here and there to make it better. Finally, one day, Del Monte picked me.”

According to his “best friend, soul mate” and wife Kelly Campanario, her husband never backs down from a challenge and is always motivated to keep trying even when he gets struck down.

“It actually made him quite determined to improve his second entry with the peaches,” Kelly Campanario wrote in an email. “It was fun for me because it meant he cooked more.”

When Del Monte announced its winner of the contest Feb. 15, Campanario received an email and phone call. The couple celebrated that night with champagne, his wife said.

Campanario beat out 20,000 contestants for the top recipe in the “Add Some Garden” contest, Ng said. As a result, he won a trip worth $10,000 to Napa Valley and San Francisco; it included $2,000 in spending money.

During the trip, the Campanarios will get a private wine cave tour, which Kelly Campanario said she anticipates being very romantic; a three-hour master chef cook workshop; dinner at the famous Napa Valley Bottega restaurant; and five days in San Francisco.

As of now, Campanario does not have any plans to enter another contest. However, he said if he sees an opportunity arise, he would definitely try to have lightning strike twice — possibly with a guacamole contest.

Kelly Campanario said, “If he ever finds an avocado recipe contest, watch out!”


Avneet Singh Chattha is a student in the University of Washington Department of Communication News Laboratory.


Gus campanario’s tip

I add a can of Del Monte peaches to my mom’s ceviche recipe. Marinate chopped shrimp, red onions, salt and chilies with lime juice for several hours in the fridge. Tossing in the chopped peaches before serving adds color and flavor to the dish. It’s like a burst of summer for your taste buds!


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