The Homecoming king and queen isn’t the only big decision Redbirds are making this week.

The 4th annual Redbird Recipe Contest winners are announced this week. Four finalists – two in each category, Main/Side Dish and Desserts/Sweets – have been named, and three of them are Illinois State alumni. The finalists’ recipes are featured during Homecoming week for dining center guests to vote for their favorite on Wednesday.

So pull up a chair, grab a plate, and meet our three alumni Redbird Recipe Contest finalists:

PHIL TRIPP ’75, M.S. ’77

Desserts/Sweets: ISU Coffee Cake

Download the full recipe

Phil and Margaret Tripp

Phil and Margaret Tripp.

Phil Tripp stuck around Illinois State after finishing his English-history double major in 1975, working as a programming assistant for Tri-Towers while getting his master’s in higher education administration and counseling.

The former resident assistant (RA) and his friends were big fans of Campus Dining Services’ bakery goods, including the donuts and coffee cake. So when they were all preparing to leave Illinois State and scatter across the country, they asked Dining Services for the coffee cake recipe.

Dining Services’ director was happy to oblige. “Take a 50-pound sack of flour, two dozen eggs …” the 500-person recipe began. After a good laugh, the director then handed over a smaller, home-size version.

“Once in a while, I still make it and think of ISU,” Tripp said. “Whenever I wasn’t sure of what to bring, like to an office potluck, I would bring that. It’s quick and simple and easy, and it’s got a good backstory.”

“It’s moist, it’s simple to make, and it’s also tasty,” he added.

This year is the first Homecoming in 20 years for Tripp and his wife, Margaret (Morton) Tripp ’74, M.S. ’76. They live just outside Philadelphia, and Phil recently retired from West Chester University after 25 years. He and his wife, also a former Housing staffer, both plan on attending the Housing/Dining Employee Reunion during Homecoming weekend.


Main/Side Dish: Caribbean Chicken with Black Bean Salsa

Download the full recipe

Susan (Hovey) Walters

Susan (Hovey) Walters.

A good cook knows about food pairings. Susan Walters is a master of food chemistry.

Walters graduated with a major in home economics and minor in chemistry, always wanting to work in a test kitchen. She went back to Illinois State full time in 1983 and got her master’s in home economics too. After a stint in South Carolina, Walters today teaches food safety and restaurant sanitation at Heartland Community College, and she teaches on her own on the side.

She’s been making the Caribbean Chicken with Black Bean Salsa since 2001, and it’s the dish she usually serves people when they come over.

“I like it with the Jamaican jerk seasoning, because it’s kind of a sweet and tangy recipe at the same time,” Walters told STATEside. “It’s just a good flavor combination.”

“I hope it will be popular with students,” the Bloomington woman added.

Walters’ favorite memory of dining at Illinois State was when she was a senior and living at Fell Hall, then called the International House. She invited one of her Chemistry Ph.D’s to the holiday party, and the evening ended with students performing different skits tied to their home country.

Her husband, Ben Walters, is a 1976 graduate of Illinois State.


Main/Side Dish: Lemon Basil Shrimp Fettuccine

Download the full recipe

Kristin Paul remembers seeing a TV commercial for Applebee’s featuring something similar to her Lemon Basil Shrimp Fettuccine dish.

“Not being a big fan of Applebee’s, I figured I could do better,” she said.

Paul was an undergraduate student from 1990-96 but didn’t finish her nursing degree until 2004. She didn’t spend a lot of time on campus as an undergrad, but today she’s pursuing her master’s degree in the family nurse practitioner program. If things go as planned, she’ll graduate in spring 2014.

Paul loves to cook and reads cooking magazines and watches her “fair share” of the Food Network. After seeing the commercial, she couldn’t find a recipe online that had everything in it she was looking for.

“So, I decided to just make it up myself,” Paul said. “I wanted to balance good flavors, while still having it be somewhat healthy — but I couldn’t resist the cream. What I came up with was very tasty, full of fresh flavors, and relatively simple to make. … I think I had it all together in 45 minutes.”

“I think students will like it because it really is quick and simple, but certainly not basic,” Paul said.

To see the 2011 Homecoming contest winners and more Illinois State-inspired food, check out the University’s Redbird Recipes board on Pinterest.

Ryan Denham can be reached at