Photo by Jerad Dunnohew

Reviewing the dozens of entries for the BLT From Scratch Challenge, the main emotional response for me was inspiration. You cooks who did this, and entered and the many folks who also posted results on blogs, are truly inspirational, which is what the best food writing and food photography does.

I want to acknowledge everyone personally, but can't possibly do that.  Do know that I gave every single entry attention, and Donna did the same for the photographs.

Here are the categories that emerged (there were two vegetarian/vegan entries, not enough for a category, but I found them both impressive in their ingenuity):

Best Over All BLT (for the combination of writing, photography, and finished sandwich)

Best BLT Photograph (self-explanatory)

Best BLT Interpretation (for most interesting use of bacon, lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise)

Most Inspirational BLT (because this contest merits a Hollywood ending)

…envelopes please…

The Winner of the Best Overall BLT From Scratch is Jared Dunnohew, featured above.  Jared is an American cook, sous chef at The Paddington Inn, in Sydney, Australia.  Ironically, he made a BLT almost from scratch before I wrote about it and did three posts on it, starting here, so he kind of had a head start. Here's his post on his BLT but cooler still, and what put him over the top here, is his photographic flow-chart of his BLT.  Awesome work, Jared. This guy harvested his own salt from the ocean!  That's a little out of control; he must have a really patient wife. (FYI, he reports 25 liters of ocean water yielded 1 kilo of salt.)

Winner of Best BLT Photograph is Rich Zanteson, of Altadena, California, an engineering technician for an aerospace/engineering company:


This BLT canape was neck and neck with the following award. Part of cooking is making food look really good, food that makes you think, "Oh, man.  I want some."  I would not hesitate to grab one of these if this plate came by.

There were some great photos, and Donna had a hard time winnowing them down.  She discusses this winner and the runners up on her blog.

Winner Best BLT Interpretation, the BLT Pie, by Maybelle's mom, who blogs from Cleveland at feedingmaybelle.


I love making savory pies, so this is an interpretation dear to my heart. Here's Maybelle's complete post on it.

Finally, the a category I was not expecting.

Winner of The Most Inspiring BLT, Emma Kate Smith and her father Walt, from West Virginia. I could write something about how this is what true cooking is all about, but I'll let the emails that accompanied their BLT pix speak.  Emma Kate, you're a girl after my bacon-loving heart.

I was excited to read the post about your contest and thought it was a brilliant idea.  When I came home from work that day, I told my youngest about it and she wanted to enter herself.  Emma Kate has just recently turned 10 years old.  She's seen me cure bacon many times but this is the first time she has expressed an interest to be involved.  As a celiac, it's important for her to learn both where her food comes from and how it 's prepared.  For this reason I decided not to enter.  Instead, we used the contest as a learning opportunity for Emma Kate and a bonding opportunity for us both.
She took this entire process very seriously and was, I thought, very creative in her approach.  She added ginger to some of the cured bacon (though she didn't want to use it for the sandwich) and it was also her idea to add the lemon thyme to the mayo.
With the exception of the knife work and heating the smoker, Emma Kate created the entire sandwich without help or input from me.  It really is so easy a kid could do it!
Emma Kate typed the message below and chose the pictures that are attached.
Thanks Michael,
Walt Smith

Mr. Ruhlman,
I had fun making my BLT.  First, my dad and me planted a garden in the summer.  Then the tomatoes and lettuce sprouted.  In September I cured the pork belly with some pink salt and put it in the refrigerator for one week.  When it was done curing I put it on the smoker.  When it was done my dad cut it on the slicer.
I can't eat gluten, (wheat, barley, rye) so I had to make Gluten-Free bread.  First, I mixed some egg yolks into some rice flour with milk and yeast.  Then we let it rise and put it in the oven.
I picked the tomatoes and some lettuce that looked like an oak leaf.  My dad and I cooked the bacon then he cut some vegetables while I made mayonnaise in a little red mixer.  I put lemon thyme in it, it's my favorite herb.  I didn't like the mayonnaise but everyone else did.
I made the sandwiches and we had friends over for a dinner party.  Everyone said it was the best BLT they ever had.
Thank you for having the contest,
Emma Kate Smith



Congrats to these winners.  Please email me your mailing address so I can send you a copy of Ratio (or another of my books if you have Ratio) and so that Susanne can send you one of her cool Hero lunch bags.

Again, thank you everyone for your inspiring cooking! Never stop.


42 Wonderful responses to “BLT From Scratch: The Winners!”

  • dadekian

    Wow. Yes, Emma’s story is completely heartwarming and inspirational. Jared’s flowchart completely rocks. I found that a little inspiring too. The whole thing was really great. Thank you.

  • erik

    How many total entries were there? Wish I could have entered, but the tomatoes didn’t turn out this year.

  • slarochelle

    Emma’s story was great. I’m looking forward to doing the same w/my daughter. Any details to share on the vegetarian BLT’s? And most importantly, what is the next cook-together?

  • eatlivetravelwrite

    Congrats to all the winners! We sure had fun trying. In fact we’re curing more bacon and pancetta right now!!! We’ll be making this an annual summer party!

  • StumptownSavoury

    The winners’ entries all look wonderful. Congratulations. I especially enjoyed the flow chart, because it made me feel a bit less geeky, and Emma’s story. What’s the next challenge, chef?

  • sara

    Such cool entries! Very yummy! It would be great if you could at least post links to each of the blog entries so we could check them out! 🙂 I’m particularly interested in the veggie versions and just generally seeing what people came up with! 🙂

  • Carrie

    I can’t believe dude harvested his own salt!! LOL I love it. I MUST make that BLT pie. Congrats to all the winners – beautiful pics!

  • kayenne

    i’m interested in Emma’s gluten-free bread… can i ask for the formula?

    Cool Emma! Great job!

  • Rhonda

    Congratulations, winners!

    All of these look wonderful and inspiring.

    Great work.

  • Sherri

    Congratulations to Rich, and all of the other winners too! I can verify that the BLT Bites tasted as good as they look. The best part of this challenge is that it started Rich and I curing our own meat, we currently have more bacon, a ham, and ham hocks in the curing process.

  • Natalie Sztern

    1. Jared are you married?
    2. Feedingmaybelle you put every blog to shame on the internet (now i think i will quit)
    3. Emma if you are not the Top Chef for 2019 then you might definitely make the Padma hostess cut you are so beautiful and talented (r u sure your’re only 10?)
    4. Rich, u can fly me to the moon anytime…

    what impressive winners and such dead-on choices Michael

  • Emma Kate Smith

    Thanks everyone for your kind and inspiring comments. I want to cook more than ever now. I would like to congragulate all of the other winners in the competition. You had great ideas.

    Emma Kate

  • Sally

    Congratulations Emma Kate. Being on a gluten-free diet is tough for an adult, but you seems to have taken it in stride and are learning to make the best of it…Keep up the good work. You are awesome!

  • Victoria

    I LOVE this post. Every winner was inspiring, but Emma Kate was truly amazing. It’s the second time I cried reading your blog. The first time was when you wrote about your dad!

  • Kell

    I’m Jerad’s (patient) wife, and I have to say the only patience required is usually to wait for these various projects to come to fruition. To say Jerad passionately and lovingly does things the hard way is an understatement – the man will do almost anything in pursuit of flavour!

    Emma Kate, we were so touched by your entry. How intrepid you are! I hope one day our kids want to grow and make like you do. It’s really nice to spend time with your Dad like that.

    Michael, I think this challenge was excellent for one two key reasons; first, when you grow tomatoes, cure bacon and bake bread from scratch, you sure as hell don’t waste a bit of it. The second reason is that we got to eat these flavourful, crispy, oozing sandwiches, which were infinitely more delicious than those made with regular store-bought things. Thanks so much.

  • patchkabel

    All the dishes look very delicious.The first one in the pics. is my favourite.I want to have that recipe in my hand soon as possible.

  • donald barickman

    emma, great job! This is Lily’s Uncle, Donald Barickman CHef of Magnolias! Next time I am in Wheeling I want to meet you and have one of your BLT’s!!

  • Kell

    @ jrishel.
    Please don’t joke, or we will end up with livestock in our apartment!

  • Kate in the NW

    These all look tremendous – I am wanting a BLT now (of course), even though we have a delicious dinner in the kitchen and a pot of homemade stock simmering on the stove (can I ever thank you enough, MR, for sucking me into the cult of homemade stock? I WILL NEVER GO BACK TO THE BOX!!!).

    Emma Kate, I hope you’re proud, and your parents too – you did GREAT! And thank you for bringing awareness to wheat sensitivities – my daughter is your age and five years ago we found out she couldn’t eat wheat – it’s not a terrible sensitivity (not as bad as true Celiac), but it makes her feel pretty sick. Two years ago, she made a friend who is also not able to eat wheat, which has been a good thing for them both – they can sympathize with each other and trade recipes! It certainly changes how you eat and cook…but the more people know about it, the better! Just think of all those cool grains that get grown more now because people are becoming more aware…and think of all the creative cooking that’s going on…PARTLY INSPIRED BY YOU!!!!

    So thank you, and good meals, good health, and the very best of luck to you and your family.

    (And PLEASE keep cooking and writing!)

  • luis

    Congrats to the winners… better than prosciutto, better than serrano and parma even….It’s homemade and it looks delish.. It’s a process…. I say. Kudo’s to the winners and all that entered. Maybe Michael will make this an anual thing…?? who knows?. There is always next year…right?

  • Sean

    I’m biased, of course, ’cause I got to eat some of it, but I couldn’t let my wife Anne’s BLT bread go without mention. It wasn’t an official entry, but it deserves to have its praises sung.

    Home-cured bacon and home-grown lettuce and sun-dried tomatoes baked into loaves of wonderful bread. Lightly toasted and finished with heavenly garlic and sun-dried tomato aioli, it was unusual and irresistibly delicious (all the more wonderful for the aioli’s inclusion of fresh eggs from the chickens of our friends, neighbors, and contest winners for photography, Rich and Sherri Zanteson).

    Take a look here:

    What a joy to take part in the challenge as an eater of the BLT’s. The sharing of the process made us aware, with every single bite, of the provenance and special flavor of every ingredient.

  • Jeb

    I am intimidated by pork belly, our tomatoes have died on the vine the past two years, and our oven doesn’t work (hence no bread). BLT donations accepted! Michael’s whole experiment was amazing!

  • Judith in Umbria

    I’m going to go eat with Jeb. This was a fabulous idea and I would have happily eaten every single one offered. I’ve been listening to BLT buzz around the net all summer. Great idea!

  • Palapala

    I just returned from Australia, where the four of us traveling together had a wonderful lunch at The Paddington Inn. We just wandered in off the street and were captured by the look and aromas of what others were being served. Congratulations to sous chef Jerad.

  • Morten Båtbukt

    I read about the challenge this summer, but as it was too late for me to get anything going at that point (I live in Norway, and in a city, and don’t have access to a garden or (preferably) a greenhouse.

    As I just recently the great entry at the blog The Girl Who Ate Everything on sandwiches I came to think about this contest and found this post on the results.

    I love it, and the flowchart is awesome.

    Also, I’m moving in January, to a place where I can grow tomatoes and lettuce, and thus I will complete this challenge next year myself.

    Better late than never 😉

  • cable hdmi

    Great food!
    The winners’ entries all look fantastic. I just can stop my self to eat if plates will putted on the table near me. I really want to know how these made? Can you post recipe? Thank you in advance!