Louise Leonard

Louise Leonard, 40, a Waterford native, is a contestant on ABC’s “The Taste.” She is competing against 15 other cooks for a chance at the $100,000 grand prize.

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Louise Leonard is not sure what her career path will be as a chef in the future or what city that career will lead her to, but she knows one thing — she has a passion for cooking with beer.

Although she currently lives in Los Angeles, the Waterford native said her roots in Wisconsin left a deep-seeded love of beer,

something she used to keep in check in her cooking but now embraces since competing in the ABC’s cooking show “The Taste.”

“For all intents and purposes, I’m a beer chef and I don’t care how ridiculous it sounds,” she said of the identity she found for herself while participating in the show during a phone interview Thursday evening.

That identity got a substantial affirmation Thursday night when she was announced as the winner of the competition and the $100,000 prize on national television.

Although the show was taped in September and October, she kept the outcome a tight-lipped secret until about 9 p.m. Thursday when the announcement was made and her phone exploded with well-wishes and congratulations.

Leonard said she is not sure what she is going to do with the prize money and new fame. She said has long dreamed of opening her own corner tavern in New York City, but is also weighing the possibility of hosting her own cooking television show.

While the recognition from the show has not caught up to her yet as she continues to work as a private chef and food stylist, she said the more beneficial aspect of being on the show was that it helped her find her unique cooking style.

Before the show, Leonard worried that she would be taken less seriously for cooking with beer over wine, but has since found that passion matters more than some ingredients.

“As long as you love what you do and you put your whole heart into it you will be taken seriously,” she said.

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