UPDATE: La Crosse hobby cook advances to semifinals in Favorite Chef contest

Richard Chrz, who uses a wheelchair, also wants to become voice in adaptive cooking
Richard Chrz, who rolls around his kitchen in his wheelchair as he cooks, says, “I think that cooking from a wheelchair has no real representation right now. I would like to be that person. (Favorite Chef photo)

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) — Richard Chrz of La Crosse advanced to the semi-finals of the online Favorite Chef competition, and he’s hoping voters provide enough leaven between now and 8 p.m. Central time April 1 to help him rise another step toward the $50,000 top prize.
As one of the top vote-getters in the quarterfinals of the competition, staged in part to raise money for Feeding America, Chrz is in one of four groups of 16 being sifted down to the Final Four.
Chrz can earn votes in two ways at the Favorite Chef website: Voters can cast a free ballot once every 24 hours, and they can pay $1 for each vote, with 25 percent of the total raised among all competitors going to Feeding America.


LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) — Richard Chrz of La Crosse is on a roll, reaching the quarterfinals of the online Favorite Chef competition, and he hopes to carve out a niche if he wins the $50,000 top prize.
Chrz, who rolls around his kitchen in his wheelchair as he cooks, says, “I think that cooking from a wheelchair has no real representation right now. I would like to be that person.
“I think the cooking world could benefit from having a voice in adaptive cooking. I’m going to be part of that conversation,” said Chrz, who lives in South La Crosse with his wife, Renee, and his two favorite critics — their black Labradors Cooper and Crosby.
The global Favorite Chef contest raises money for Feeding America, the United States’ largest organization dedicated to fighting domestic hunger through a national food bank network. Celebrity Chef Eddie Matney hosts the competition.
Quarterfinalists are in the top 1% of those who entered the contest. Voting to cull them to semifinalists lasts until 6 p.m. March 25, and those in the semis being voted upon until April 8. The victor will win $50,000, be announced in a two-page spread in Bon Appetit and mentoring from Matney.
Voting at the Favorite Chef website can be done in two ways: Everyone can have free vote daily and you can get additional “HERO” votes for each dollar donation to Feeding America.
The 48-year-old Chrz, who has lupus that morphed into a nerve disease that landed him in a wheelchair in 2018 with poorer use of his legs.
“That started what turned into four infusions every other week, at six hours apiece for two-and-a-fourth years, for a total of 226 infusions,” Chrz said.
He channeled the time in the hospital for the treatments toward developing cooking.
“I always enjoyed cooking, and I dove into the idea of cooking foods I enjoy,” Chrz said. “I will rest for half of the day if I know I can cook that night. It’s my mental go-to, my therapy. I turned it into life education.”
As friends started asking him to cook for them, he realized, he said, “Maybe I’m pretty good.”
Hearing about the Favorite Chef contest and needing money to upgrade their home to make navigating with his wheelchair safer and easier, he figured he’d give it a shot and try to join the crème de la crème of the culinary class.
“I am now starting to have dexterity and strength issues in my arms,” he explained. “I would use the winnings to redo areas of my kitchen and house that not only would remove extra energy used that could be better used in other parts of my cooking, it would also make it safer at times.”
Chrz also launched a YouTube channel to provide adaptive tips for others who might be in wheelchairs. For example, he uses a cutting board on his lap, and it takes a knack to carry hot water in a wheelchair.
Asked whether he has a signature dish, he said, “I love so much food. If I had to choose one, I would choose Italian cooking, pizza and pasta, all-day sauces. It is stuff that I can spend little bits of time, over long periods of a day, and conserve the energy to share with friends and family.”
And the dogs, Cooper and Crosby. “They’re my favorite critics,” he said. “They love vegetables, so as soon as they see the cutting board come out, they come and sit next to me.”
Asked whether he might use some of the prize money, if he wins, to buy a vowel, Chrz laughed and said, “As a kid, I thought that was really a lame name,” but as an adult, it’s become more of a novelty. BTW, it’s pronounced “kriz.”