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Madrid chef a finalist in Rachael Ray cooking contest.


MADRID - Blake S. Barkley is waiting to find out if a hamburger will be his ticket to national celebrity.

Mr. Barkley, 24, of Norfolk, is pit master and cook at his family-owned Ole Smokehouse, 3512 County Route 14. He recently submitted a recipe for a hamburger for a contest on the nationally syndicated Rachael Ray Show in New York City. Ms. Ray also hosts a cooking show and is a best-selling author.

The burger was a hit.

“They called in mid-October and we discussed the story behind the burger,” Mr. Barkley said. “The segment coordinator explained that I was in the top five for contestants. The top three would get to be on the Rachael Ray show and that if I was chosen I would get a call back in a few weeks.”

The son of Stephen and Robin Barkley of Norfolk entered the contest somewhat tentatively.

“A co-worker, Megan Finnegan, told Robin about the burger contest on the Rachel Ray Show,” he said. “My mom entered a burger of her own and told me that I should enter one as well.”

Mind you, it’s not just any burger.

“I wanted to come up with something that no one had done before,” Mr. Barkley said. “My friend Josh Hollenbeck and I were working on a roof and came up with the burger that I submitted to the Rachael Ray show. It was taste-tested first by Josh when he came in for lunch a few days after we came up with this creation. It was delicious.”

Mr. Barkley’s burger is called “The Spicy Hollenbeck.” The eight-ounce ground beef burger is topped with shredded chicken in a bleu cheese hot sauce, fried haystacked onions, fried jalapeno peppers, Cajun ranch dressing and a slice of and American cheese. It is served on toasted jalapeno cornbread.

Mr. Barkley chose cooking as a profession somewhat tentatively as well.

“I wasn’t really interested in cooking growing up,” he said. “It wasn’t until my parents opened the Ole Smokehouse in 2008 did I really think about being a cook. I tried it and have really enjoyed it ever since.”

Mr. Barkley is aware of the Glens Falls-born Rachel Ray.

“I don’t personally watch her show that much, but my mom watches it every day,” he said. “I catch it at the restaurant in the mornings sometimes.”

Maternal guidance, Mr. Barkley added, has never been too far away.

“For cooking, my mother is an inspiration to me because she has taught me most of what I know about the trade,” he said.

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