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Sanibel chef in the running of winning $25,000

By Staff | Sep 16, 2015

Sweet Melissa Cafe chef Melissa Talmage created Sweet Melissa’s Stratta for the Hometown Breakfast Battle. PHOTO PROVIDED

A Sanibel chef is in the running of winning $25,000 for a competition challenging chefs to create the best breakfast using the brand Thomas English muffins and bagels during National Breakfast Month.

Melissa Talmage, of Sweet Melissa’s Cafe is one of 135 chefs in 135 cities competing in the first Hometown Breakfast Battle, which is being held in honor of the Thomas’ brand English muffins and bagels 135th anniversary.

“They contacted me,” she said about the competition, which features her recipe “Sweet Melissa’s Stratta.”

Talmage said she was excited about being contacted because it is always fun creating new meals as a chef.

“I am a huge fan of Thomas products,” she said. “English muffins are a staple of every kid. I grew up on Thomas English muffins.”

Talmage said having two kids that are teenagers she is always looking to create easy, “quick as humanely possible” meals.

Her stratta recipe includes Thomas 100 percent whole wheat English muffins, eggs, heavy cream, goat cheese, sea grape jelly, chives, salt and pepper. She said individuals can prepare the dish the night before and it lasts for a couple of days.

When creating the baked egg dish she used eggs from Rosy Tomorrows Heritage Farm in North Fort Myers and sea grape jelly made on Sanibel island.

“The English muffins lay on the bottom of the baking dish and the custard is poured over it and baked,” she said.

On Monday, Sept. 14, voting went live for the challenge at www.ThomasBreakfastBattle.com. Individuals who vote will also be entered into the grand prize drawing of $10,000 and a chance to instantly win one of the 135 free Thomas product coupons awarded daily.

The first round of voting will end Sept. 27, with the second round resuming on Sept. 28, through Oct. 4. The quarter final voting will take place from Oct. 5, through Oct. 11, followed by the semi-final voting from Oct. 12, though Oct. 18. The finals voting will end the contest from Oct. 19, through Oct. 25.

The chef who wins will receive a cash prize of $25,000.

“It’s another avenue to get Sanibel and Captiva Island out there,” she said of why she’s excited about the competition.

The chef, who graduated from culinary school in 2001, began working at Redfish Bluefish on Sanibel eight years ago before it became Sweet Melissa’s Cafe. Before moving to the island, she worked in New York and New Orleans, which has inspired many of her dishes at the fine dining restaurant.

Talmage said she enjoys cooking because it’s as if everyone is coming to her house for dinner every night and she is entertaining a group of people. She said she is creating new things and pushing individuals to try new things while enjoying themselves and having a good time.

“That is sort of what keeps me going,” Talmage said.

Follow Meghan @IslanderMeghan on Twitter.