Woman wins national recipe contest

BY MIKE SHERWIN, ASSISTANT EDITOR

Leslye Louis’ passion for the tiny, square White Castle hamburger, paid off big time when she won an annual recipe contest held by the burger chain.

The contest called for entrants to utilize ten White Castle hamburgers in a recipe, using the whole burger: bun, burger and onions, although the pickles were optional.

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“I looked through my White Castle recipe books, with previous winners, and they had almost all of the bases covered,” Louis said. “Almost every kind of ethnic food, and dishes for breakfast, lunch and dinner had already been done. But then I started to think about doing something with pancakes,” she said.

After settling on potato pancakes, Louis would arrive at her award winning recipe, which she named “The Latkes You Crave,” playing off of the White Castles’ tagline, “What You Crave.”

“I’ve never entered a recipe contest in my life before this,” said Louis, of New Melle, Mo. “But I have always loved White Castles, and I thought it would be so fun to enter,” she said.

Louis tested out recipes with her son, Kevin Seltzer, who was in law school at Mizzou. She cooked up batches of latkes for him and his friends, and adjusted the flavors until she got it just right.

She submitted her recipe this past summer, and found out last month that she won, besting around 300 other entries.

“It was a complete surprise,” she said. She was actually just leaving a funeral, when she checked her cell phone, which said she had a message. When I checked my voicemail, they said it was from White Castle headquarters in Columbus, Ohio, and that they had good news for me.”

“At first I though someone was playing a trick on me. I thought even if it was true, I maybe placed in the top ten. But when I called back, they told me I had won the grand prize…It was like they do on TV. I started screaming. I just couldn’t believe it,” Louis said.

White Castle has long become a big part of Louis’ life. She says she has had birthday parties and baby showers at the restaurants, and taken part in their Valentine’s Day sit-down dinners each year (where reservations are required, and the restaurant’s burgers are eaten at full place settings on white linen tablecloths.

In fact, she has even created a tradition of whenever she returns to town after a trip, she goes to a White Castle, and when many of her friends come back to town, they meet there. “It’s my hangout. It’s my own little Cheers,” she said. “There’s just an aura about the place.”

Although she is enamored with White Castles, Louis says it is a bit ironic, because, “I’m not a fast food person,” she said. “I’m pretty health conscious, and I rarely eat meat anymore, besides White Castle hamburgers,” she said.

Louis says she typically orders just two of the burgers, and sometimes, a third for her dog.

Those two burgers a visit are dwarfed by Louis’s prize for winning the contest. Along with a gift certificate to White Castle’s online store, some White Castle merchandise, and the inclusion of her recipe in the next cookbook, Louis received a “Crave Case” (30 hamburgers) each week for a year. That totals 1,500 hamburgers.

“I have never bought a ‘Crave Case’ in my life,” Louis admits. “I guess I’ll have to have a lot of people over for a lot of parties,” she said.

Louis, the daughter of Holocaust survivors, said while she is not a member of a congregation in St. Louis, she has attended and supported Central Reform Congregation.

The media attention Louis has garnered for her White Castle contest win has resulted in a new nickname. One radio host referred to her as “Queen of the Castle,” which Louis’s friends picked up on.

“I love it. My friends have always had a lot of fun with my love for ‘the Castle.’ One of them even bought me a tiara, so I can wear my crown when I go there,” she said. “This has all just been so fun.”

The Latkes You Crave:

10 White Castle burgers

3 eggs

4 cups grated potatoes

1/4 cup grated onion

4 tablespoons flour

2 teaspoons salt

1 tablespoon parsley flakes

1 teaspoon ground sage

1/2 teaspoon pepper

Vegetable oil

Remove the pickles and crumble or dice hamburgers in a large bowl and set aside. Beat eggs until light and foamy. Stir in the grated potatoes, grated onion, flour, seasonings, herbs and combine with the hamburger mixture. Heat 1/8 to 1/4 inch vegetable oil in a large skillet. For each latke, drop about 1/4 cup White Castle potato mixture into the hot oil, fry on each side until golden brown. Add oil to pan as needed, to keep proper depth for frying. Drain latkes well on absorbent paper. This makes about 14-20 latkes. Serve hot, with applesauce, dairy sour cream, apple butter or eat plain.

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