A local woman was among those chosen as one of the a winners of a national recipe contest hosted by Walmart.
Sponsored by national salsa brand Fresh Cravings, the Associate Cook-off Contest was launched in early September with more than two million Walmart employees invited to submit their best comfort food or holiday-inspired recipes. Contestants were tasked with impressing a panel of prominent chefs including plant-based chef Chloe Coscarelli, Texas-based restaurateur and Top Chef alumni chef Tiffany Derry, as well as The Bacon Bible co-author and New York City-based restaurateur Chef Peter Sherman.
Among the three winners chosen is Debi Rolston, who works at Williston’s Walmart. Rolston, originally from Bergland, Michigan, began her career at Walmart 13 years ago, and is a personal shopper for the online grocery department. She and her husband Bill have two sons, one grandson, six step-grandchildren and one great grandchild.
A self-proclaimed passionate foodie, Rolston won the judges over with her Upper Michigan Pasties. The recipe, which has been in Rolston’s family for more than 100 years, pays tribute to her Michigan roots. Pasties themselves have an interesting backstory, originating in Cornwall England where they were called “meat pies.” Cornish women would make them for their husbands while working in the tin mines.
The men would be working in the mines all day, so the pies were a hot meal that they wouldn’t have to come to surface to get. In fact, Rolston explained, they would just put them on their shovels and heat them over the candles.
Rolston said the popular pies were brought over to upper Michigan when the copper mines opened up, and after World War II the Cornish people went back home to England but the pie recipe remained stateside.
“I grew up with grandmothers and great-grandmothers that cooked all the time, they never bought store meals or ordered out, they cooked everything from scratch at home and I had the luxury of watching them cook when I was a young girl.” Rolston told the Williston Herald. “I would spend two weeks every summer at my grandmothers, she would let us help her in the kitchen and I guess really that’s where I learned to make pasties, along with many other delicious things. I recently taught my grandson and my daughter-in-laws to make pasties, hopefully the tradition will be carried on from generation to generation.”
A former restaurateur, Rolston said she loves to cook and share her creations with those around her. Taking part in a cooking competition was a no-brainer for her, but she said she never expected to win and just wanted to share some of her heritage with her fellow associates.
“At first, when my boss told me I won, I didn’t believe her.” Rolston said. “But it is truly an honor to be chosen as the winner and to be able to share a little bit about my area. Pasties can be made many ways, you can make them vegetarian, vegan, I have even tried chicken Alfredo pasties. There is no wrong way of doing it. It was truly an honor to work with all the people from Fresh Cravings and Walmart in doing this whole process and I would like to say a big thank you to all of them.”
Rolston and the other winning associates will receive premium kitchen gear and an exclusive culinary virtual cooking experiences led by the judging panel. Each experience will highlight the judge’s diverse expertise in the culinary world. Coscarelli will break down vegan and vegetarian cooking techniques, Derry will focus on regional Southern cuisine, Sherman will lead a grilling-focused class and Registered Dietitian Mia Syn will round out the experience with a focus on fresh, healthy ingredients.