The Big Dish gets some Local Flavor

An exciting new Bay Area cooking competition features one of the best home chefs in town.


Friends and family know that Herlinda Heras can cook. Now the questions is how will she stack up to the competition in KOFY's new cooking competition show, The Big Dish?

This long time Rohnert Park resident is pretty well known for her love of cooking along with her ability to whip up amazing meals. She regularly puts her culinary skills to work for charity as she happily auctions off 'homemade themed dinners' for charity fundraisers with Rotary, the 20-30 Club, or the YWCA.

One such auction tipped the scales at over $1200 for an evening enjoying Herlinda's kitchen creations. It should be exciting to see how her prowess translates to a cooking competition.

The Big Dish is a head-to-head cooking competition show on KOFY TV 20 out of the Bay Area. The concept is similar to Chopped where two chefs are pitted against each other and given a certain amount of time to whip up a signature dish. A panel of judges then taste both dishes before deciding on the winner.

The show is hosted by Clark Wolf, who acts as one of the judges. The concept features various locations and notable cooking personalities around the Bay Area. Restaurants such as The Girl in The Fig, The Cliff House, and Lake Chalet will be featured along with their owners.

Herlinda's episode, which premiers December 16 at 9:30 p.m., was filmed in October at the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco. One of Herlinda's good friends, Jurgen, was a master chef instructor at the CCA and has proudly proclaimed her, 'One of the best home chefs he has ever seen.'

That connection certainly helped make new acquaintances with the master chef instructors at the Academy during filming.

For her episode they started by shopping at Canyon Market in San Francisco and then it was off to the kitchen where she made her go-to dish of 'salmon en papillote' for judges Clark Wolf, Nancy Oaks, and Jarad Gallagher.

These amateur cooks all had to send in videos of themselves cooking in the kitchen. Herlinda's friends from the Bite Club all kept telling her she had to do it so a friend took a short video of her with an iPhone and the next thing she knew the producers were calling to talk to her.

While she might have been a little nervous, it was doubtful that it showed. When it comes to cooking, Herlinda is a natural who started in the kitchen when she was about 4 years old. Her mother and father had a big influence on her and felt that learning how to cook was an important part of life.

Her dad was a career Navy man and Herlinda grew up as a Navy brat with roots all over the place. Twice she lived on the base in Novato and still as quite a few friends in the area from her childhood.

While her mom worked with more traditional Spanish and Italian fare that matched her background, her dad would make Korean BBQ and her family was eating sushi before it was a trendy choice. From there her love of all things culinary continued.

She made her first Thanksgiving dinner when she was 11 at Hamilton Air Force Base. Part of the reason she became so good at it was that her mom allowed her to do and try so many things in the kitchen. As a result, not only is she fabulous in the kitchen, but both of her daughters are pretty good cooks as well.

Her youngest, Autumn, attends the Ranch in Rohnert Park while her oldest is becoming quite the accomplished photographer along with attending the SF IEC.

Along with loving food, Herlinda loves to travel and has been all over the U.S. and parts of Europe. Last year she was in Spain, Paris, and London where of course she had to visit Anthony Bourdain's favorite spot, St. John.

So what else does Herlinda do when not cooking for friends and family? Her current career involves being an agent for New York Life where a big focus is providing long-term health care insurance. In the past she was an ambulance driver and one thing she noted was the number of women in care facilities not always receiving the best care after spending their lives caring for others.

She is also a founding member of the Rancho-Cotati Rotary, is an active member of the Rohnert Park Chamber of Commerce, helps the local YWCA, and generally volunteers her time and energy to any local opportunity that needs it.

This year she worked with Lagunitas and the RP 50th Anniversary. She also organized a tour for the US War Naval College this last October and will be helping organize another for this January.

At first glance this would seem to be a far cry from her days at Sonoma State University getting a degree in biology, but Herlinda feels it is related because, "Cooking is like a science."

I for one will be rooting for her to win when her episode airs on the 16th this month. If you want to get a firsthand experience of her culinary expertise you can check out the local fundraisers and put in a bid on her 'dinner prizes' or just stop by the Chamber's Crab Feed on January 5th at the Community Center.

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Alex Horvath December 12, 2012 at 03:56 PM
Great article about Herlina, a friend from college whom I have discovered is involved in so many things locally! Where does she find the time? I will be watching the cooking show!
Carlos Villatoro December 13, 2012 at 02:36 AM
Cool story Nick! Will be nice to see her Herlinda compete!
j December 20, 2012 at 07:37 PM
Wow, was a bit of an odd episode to watch, running around bumping into the blonde lady in the store and knocking her purse off her shoulder. just a weird watch!


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