Plate of duckGrace Goudie, an Illinois native, advanced to the season finale of “Chopped” following her latest win in the competition. She will soon face-off against the remaining competitors to see who will take home the $25,000 cash prize.

Goudie began her culinary journey as a teenager, waiting tables prior to studying journalism and food science at the University of Missouri. She attended the prestigious Culinary Institute in Napa, California, and participated in the Accelerated Culinary Arts Program. Following her graduation, she worked at a number of restaurants, then returned to the Chicago area.

Goudie later received the opportunity of a lifetime. She was hired by Thomas Keller, a chef known for his exceptionally high standards and accolades, to work in his restaurants as a sous chef at Ad Hoc and later at French Laundry, a three Michelin-starred restaurant.

Having to impress the renowned judges of “Chopped” is not the only challenge with which Goudie is familiar. Her participation was urged by her mother, who is currently fighting a battle with lymphoma, but despite having to beat out the contenders with an unconventional ingredient – fish heads – she was able to rise above the competition and put herself among the finalists.

Goudie is now an executive chef of the breakfast, lunch and dinner restaurant Scratchboard Kitchen in Arlington Heights, her first restaurant which she opened during the COVID-19 pandemic. At just 30 years old, she brings pride to cooks throughout Illinois by sharing her skills with the world on Facebook and YouTube. Her website features recipes and tutorial videos for chefs to try techniques and dishes from the comfort of their own home.

The season finale of “Chopped” will air Feb. 1 on the Food Network.

GetzToday is National Whipped Cream Day, and the sweet treat has its origins right here in Illinois. The cold has returned again, and hot drinks topped with whipped cream are a great way to keep warm. While the day falls on the birthday of the late Aaron “Bunny” Lapin, who founded “Reddi-wip”, true credit for one of the most popular dessert toppings goes to Charles Getz, who was a graduate student at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign during the Great Depression.

Getz discovered that milk infused with pressurized carbon dioxide began to foam. At the time, Getz was conducting research on food preservation, but he quickly understood the potential of his discovery. Working in collaboration with Chemistry professor George Frederick Smith, Getz experimented with the foaming milk and determined that nitrous oxide was ideal for the process, as carbon dioxide created a bitter taste. From this process, portable whipped cream as we put on our desserts today was born.

Afterward, Getz patented the method, which George Frederick Smith, with help from his brothers, Allyne H. Smith and Clarence Smith, used to develop a product called Instantwhip, the first aerosol whipped cream, in 1933. The product proved successful in restaurants, ice cream shops, and soda fountains. Building off their success, the Smith brothers decided to found a larger business.  

In 1934, Smith used Instantwhip whipped cream to launch the company Instantwhip Foods with his brothers in Ohio. They initially sold the whipped cream in cans that could be returned and refilled. They mostly sold their products to restaurants or ice-cream parlors. The company still exists today and sells many other products, including coffee creamer and yogurt under the name of Instantwhip Foods.

In 1948, Reddi-Wip would be founded by Aaron “Bunny” Lapin, who patented the specific spray nozzle and sold their product directly to consumers. Many attribute the invention of aerosol whipped cream to Lapin, even though Getz and Smith discovered the process in the 1930s. As you put whipped cream on your hot chocolate this cold January day, you can thank Charles Getz and his research at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

IllinoisstatehoodOn Dec. 3, 1818 Illinois entered the union as our 21st State. At the time, the estimated population of total European settlers and Native Americans was around 35,000. The treeless prairie was very different from the adjacent forests of Kentucky and Tennessee, and was still largely unsettled. Most of the early Illinois settlers remained in the southern part of the state, where they built homes and farms near the trees that grew along creek and river bottoms. The southern part of the state, known as “Little Egypt,” was mainly settled by migrants from the South, who had traveled there via the Ohio River.  Eventually, a few farmers took on the task of plowing the prairie and discovered that the soil was richer than expected. The development of heavier prairie plows and improved access to wood and other supplies, accessible through new shipping routes, encouraged more farmers to head north.

In 1819, Vandalia became the new state’s first capital, and over the next 18 years, three separate buildings were built to serve successively as the capitol building. In 1837, the state legislators representing Sangamon County, under the leadership of state representative  Abraham Lincoln, succeeded in having the capital moved to Springfield, where a fifth capitol building was constructed. A sixth capitol building was erected in 1867, which continues to serve as the Illinois capitol today.

The state experienced rapid population growth almost immediately. The 1820 census counted 55,211 Illinois residents, a gain of 16.2% from 1810. Since then, Illinois has gained population in every decennial census, although the rate of growth has slowed. As of 2020, the state is approaching 13 million residents. Since 1840, the center of population in Illinois had shifted to the north. Chicago, once a remote hamlet, rapidly emerged as a bustling city. Today, Illinois is one of the most dynamic and diverse states in the nation and it all began in Dec. 1818.

Clark BridgeThe Clark Bridge, linking Illinois to Missouri in Alton, is a cable-stay bridge, unique in its structure in the United States. The bridge is named for explorer William Clark, who helped lead the Lewis & Clark expedition from 1804 to 1806. The bridge is a 4,620 foot gateway inviting visitors to discover the region.

Requiring 8,100 tons of structural steel, 44,100 cubic yards of concrete and more than 160 miles of cable wrapped with four acres of yellow plastic piping, the Clark Bridge is expected to be a part of the area's scenery well into the next century. The bridge is supported by 44 steel cables looped over saddles and perched on top of a pair of ten foot wide concrete pylons 250 feet above the Mississippi River.

Design work on the bridge began in 1985, with construction starting in June 1990. Designed by Hanson Engineers under contract to Illinois Department of Transportation, the Clark Bridge was the first in the United States in which a light steel-framed cable-stayed design was combined with a cable saddle type of pylon. The bridge used 8,100 tons of structural steel, 44,100 cubic yards of concrete, and more than 160 miles of cable wrapped with four acres of yellow plastic piping. The span carries four lanes of traffic and two additional paths for bicycles and pedestrians. It is the northernmost river crossing in the St. Louis metropolitan area.

The new Clark Bridge was built to replace the Old Clark Bridge, which was built by the Alton-St. Louis Bridge Company in 1927 and demolished after the completion of the new bridge in the 1990s. The old bridge was a toll bridge while the new one is not.

The new Clark Bridge is sometimes referred to as the “Super Bridge.” Its construction was featured in a NOVA documentary entitled Super Bridge, which highlighted the challenges of building the bridge, especially during the Great Flood of 1993.

morrowplotsThe College of Agricultural Sciences on the campus of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign is home to the oldest and largest experimental crop field in the United States and the second oldest in the entire world. The plots were established in 1876 and continue to be used today, although now with three plots of much-reduced size, instead of the original ten half-acre lots. Some of the land formally included in the plots was used to build the campus observatory or tuned into green space. Now only three plots remain, but they are protected as a National Historic Landmark. The Morrow Plots is one of two such landmarks on campus, achieving its status in 1968. The neighboring observatory also achieved the status of National Historic Landmark in 1989.

The Morrow Plots were started in 1876 by Professor Manly Miles, who established three half-acre fields with different crop schemes. These were expanded to 10 plots in 1879 by George E. Morrow. At first, record keeping was not of the highest caliber, but by the turn of the 20th century, it was clear that crop rotation was a useful component in preventing the depletion of soil quality. In the early 20th century, the number of plots were reduced, and their size was also reduced, in order to facilitate expansion of the university facilities. The northernmost plots are the only ones that date to Miles' 1876 establishment-his other plots are now occupied by the University of Illinois Observatory.

Alumni of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign will be pleased to learn that the Morrow plots were instrumental in in gaining knowledge on crop rotation, soil nutrient depletion, and the effects of synthetic and natural fertilizers. With crops being consistently grown in the same place for well over 100 years, research and records on the Morrow Plots continue to provide valuable information for a variety of topics, including soil carbon sequestration and long-term effects of fertilizers on soil bacteria. Corn, wheat, soybeans and other crops are still grown on the plots to this day.