At birthday parties for six siblings and 26 nieces and nephews, Carolyn Davis has had plenty of opportunity to show off her cooking skills.
Now those cooking skills have paid off. Davis, an Alexandria resident and employee at Wal-Mart, 7910 Richmond Highway, was one of 80 winners in the Southeast region of a cooking contest for Wal-Mart employees. Her recipe for pasta and seafood salad is published in the Wal-Mart Family Cookbook.
She earned her kitchen skills growing up in Wilson, N.C., she said. “[I] come from a very cooking family,” Davis said. “My momma and grandma made sure we knew how to cook.”
In addition to cooking for her friends and family, Davis often cooks for Wal-Mart functions, such as baby showers, birthday parties and going away parties.
Davis, who has worked the switchboards at Wal-Mart for seven years, likes to prepare recipes that have been handed down in her family, as well as many that she has invented herself. She initially had a hard time deciding which recipe to submit, but finally decided on her pasta and seafood salad because it is so popular among her fellow employees.
“I wasn’t surprised,” said Molly Taylor, Davis’s friend and co-worker at Wal-Mart. “She’s a great cook. I’ve tasted many of her dishes.”
DAVIS’ FAVORITE RECIPES, many of which have been passed down in her family, include Collard Green and Potato Salad, Country Fried Chicken, Sweet Potato Pie, and Hoppin’ John, a dish with black-eyed peas called which Davis modified from her family’s original recipe.
“I was excited to hear that I had won,” Davis said. “I knew that there were a lot of people entering… I didn’t expect to win.”
The contest, which was open only to Wal-Mart employees, received about 1,000 entries nationwide, according to Robin John, Promotions Manager of Tryfoods International, which published the book.
Eighty winners were chosen for each of the six regions of the country. A team of six food editors and three home economists judged all the entries on originality, ease of preparation, and taste.
“Not a lot of the recipes submitted used seafood, and it was a refreshing change to see that,” John said of Davis’ winning recipe. The judges also liked how the vegetables made the salad fresher, and how the dish had family appeal.
BEFORE WORKING AT Wal-Mart, Davis was a licensed cosmetologist in Maryland for 16 years. She raised two children, Archie and Angela, and was married for 20 years until her divorce.
“I wanted a new life, to start over again,” Davis said. “So I came to Virginia.”
She thought about working in the catering business or another profession in which she could use her cooking skills. Although she hasn’t yet had the opportunity, she has been putting together a cookbook for three years which has recently been accepted for publication. The book is half family recipes and half original recipes, and includes a wide variety of dishes
“[The cookbook has] everything from cheese-corn bread to barbecue ribs,” Davis said.
Davis received a blue ribbon for winning the contest, as well as posters announcing her win for display in the store. Her family was excited about her winning recipe and passed the cookbook around at their Christmas dinner.
Many regular customers, who Davis has gotten to know over the years, have purchased the book in support of her.
Wal-Mart is going to have a book signing for Davis at a later date, and she is going to make the dish for the other employees the day of the signing.
“I’m not really nervous, because I’m so familiar with Wal-Mart and the day-to-day shoppers,” Davis said of doing the book signing. “This has been a home for me for the past seven years.”
Carolyn Davis’s Pasta and Seafood Salad
1 pkg. (16 oz) dried elbow macaroni
1 lb. peeled and deveined medium shrimp
1 can (15 1/2 oz.) pink salmon, drained, flaked, and skin and bones removed
1 can (6 oz.) chunk white tuna (water pack), drained
1 pkg. (6 oz.) frozen crab meat, thawed
1 1/4 cups mayonnaise
1 tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. prepared mustard
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
3/4 cup chopped red onion or chopped green bell pepper
1/2 cup chopped tomato
1/2 cup chopped celery
1. Cook macaroni according to package directions, except add shrimp during last three minutes of cooking. Drain. Rinse with cold water. Drain well.
2. In a very large bowl toss together macaroni mixture, salmon, tuna and crab meat.
3. In a small bowl combine mayonnaise, sugar, mustard and pepper. Add mayonnaise mixture, onion, tomato and celery to macaroni mixture. Gently toss until combined. Cover and refrigerate for 3 to 24 hours. Serve on lettuce, if desired.