City showdown: Dayton employees battle it out in cooking competition

For the second year in a row, Dayton Police Capt. John Coleman (right) won the Golden Ladle contest for the City of Dayton. Coleman was presented the award by Dayton City Manager Theo Melancon (left).

There are questions that plague mankind, such as “Can germs catch germs?” “Does chewing gum really stay inside of you for years when you swallow it?” “Can you dream you are having a dream?” and “Whose macaroni is the cheesiest?”

One question was answered on Tuesday during the fourth annual Golden Ladle food competition hosted by the City of Dayton. The winner of the “Whose mac is the cheesiest?” contest is Dayton Police Capt. John Coleman, who is claiming his second win in a row. Last year he won for his chili recipe.

The Golden Ladle tradition is that the winner of the previous contest picks the food category for the following year, so Coleman had a bit of an advantage by picking the category and using a recipe from his late mother, Vernice Coleman, who worked as a short-order cook.

Pct. 4 Constable Robby Thornton’s nose knows, or at least it helps in determining which mac and cheese is the cheesiest during the Golden Ladle cooking contest for the City of Dayton. Thornton was on a four-person panel of judges.

“It was my first time making homemade mac and cheese. Remember when Coonie’s Café was in Moss Hill and then in Hardin? Remember when the same family owned the Country Emporium in Liberty? My mom worked at all three of those places. She also ran the corn dog stand that was in Liberty for years,” Coleman said.

When Coleman’s mom passed away, family members gathered all of the recipes she had accumulated – written on the back of order forms or slips of paper, or cut from magazines – and made copies to create a family cookbook.

“My mom was a heckuva cook,” said Coleman.

As winner of the Golden Ladle contest, Coleman will be allowed to keep the plaque – made from a spray-painted plastic spoon attached to a wooden background – for another year.

The contest had 12 entries from City of Dayton employees and departments and was judged by a four-person panel that included City Attorney Brandon Davis, Pct. 4 Constable Robby Thornton, Dayton City Councilwoman Sherial Lawson and Bluebonnet News Editor Vanesa Brashier. City Manager Theo Melancon emceed the event, which was held in the Dayton Community Center.

If you want to try out Coleman’s award-winning recipe, follow these instructions:

Coleman’s mac and cheese


  • One 16-ounce package of large elbow macaroni
  • 1 stick of butter, cut into halves
  • 1/3 cup of flour
  • Four cups of sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • Two cups of Gruyere cheese, shredded
  • Three cups of milk
  • One cup of heavy whipping cream
  • Smoked paprika to taste
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Grated Parmesan cheese
  • Panko bread crumbs

Start by boiling the macaroni until tender; drain and set aside. In a large saucepan, melt half a stick of butter over medium heat. Then add the flour, creating a white roux. Cook for a couple of minutes longer, then add the milk and heavy whipping cream. Combine the cheddar cheese and Gruyere cheese in a separate bowl and then add half the cheeses to the flour and milk mixture. Add spices and continue cooking until you have a thick and creamy sauce. Place the macaroni into a large casserole dish and pour the mixture over the pasta, making sure that all noodles are covered. Top with the remaining cheese. Mix a cup of Panko bread crumbs with Parmesan cheese. Then take the other half-cup of butter and mix into the bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese to create a topping for the mac and cheese. Spoon onto the mac and cheese and place in oven. Bake for 20-30 minutes at 350 degrees, or until the mac and cheese is bubbling. Remove from heat. Cool for a few minutes and serve.

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