WALLA WALLA -- When it comes to cooking, some people are just naturals.
"I have never made cassoulet. I had never made duck in my life," said Sharon Ferraro, this year's winner of the third annual Julia Child Cookoff.
Ferraro's lack of experience in making the peasant dish known as French comfort food didn't stop her from taking first place.
"I am excited. I really can cook. For me, I have always loved to cook, but I do it for fun," Ferraro said.
Perhaps Ferraro had an inkling she might win, since she is a chef for Ferraro's Specialty Foods located at My Grandmother's Garden, 2946 S. Third Ave.
In addition, Ferraro also took second place at the first Julia Child Cookoff held by the Downtown Walla Walla Foundation.
That year, the featured French dish was beef bourguignon.
The year after, cocovancoq au vin, which is traditionally made with a tough rooster.
There have been a few changes to the French cooking competition since 2010, including finding a way to promote more business.
"One of the requests we had from merchants is to do things that involve our locals. And we switched the event from a weeknight to a weekend afternoon," which allowed for immediate dining afterward, events and public relations manager Jennifer Dilworth Northam said.
Each year the foundation also picks a different location and charity recipient.
This year the event was held at the Marcus Whitman Hotel & Conference Center, and the profits went to the Salvation Army Food Bank.
The event also features a different actor playing Julia Child. The first two years those actors were men, but this year a woman was chosen for the part.
"If I had my way, we probably would have had another guy. But it didn't work out," Northam said.
Another change from the first Julie Child Cookoff is that event coordinators were not allowed to promote the tasting of the food entries because local health codes prohibit it since the foods were not prepared in licensed kitchens, Northam said.
Northam also made it clear to the guests that she was not going to police the event to keep the participants from tasting.
"I am in no way a proponent of illegal tasting, just to be clear," Northam said.
Alfred Diaz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 526-8325.