Monroe woman is one of three to win Fresh Cravings Walmart Associate Cookoff with ramen noodle dish

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MONROE – When thinking about a recipe for the inaugural national recipe contest in the Fresh Cravings Walmart Associate Cookoff, Touraine Jones thought a ramen noodle dish made sense as a fall staple comfort food.

The contest, which was launched in September, welcomed Walmart associates to enter for a chance for their recipe to be in the Fresh Cravings Walmart Associate Cookoff e-book, a chance to win premium kitchen gear from Fresh Cravings and a chance for virtual culinary experiences with a panel of prominent chefs including plant-based Chef Chloe Coscarelli, Texas-based restauranteur and “Top Chef” alum Chef Tiffany Derry as well as “The Bacon Bible” co-author and New York City-based restauranteur Chef Peter Sherman and registered dietician Mia Syn.

Jones, of Monroe, who manages the Walmart Supercenter in Teterboro, was one of more than 100 Walmart associates in New Jersey who entered the contest, which was sponsored by Walmart and Fresh Cravings, a part of FoodStory brands offering refrigerated salsas and plant-based dips. Jones’ recipe was one of three recipes selected.

More than 2 million Walmart employees were invited to submit comfort food or holiday-inspired recipes as part of the contest.

Jones said she entered the contest after seeing a social media post on a Walmart social media platform in late August and early September.

“Normally we encourage our team members to enter contests to promote each other and promote Walmart,” she said, noting this was the first contest she has entered.

For the contest, Jones found all the ingredients at the Walmart store – canned corn, canned carrots, canned green peas, canned Vienna sausage, two hard boiled eggs and a package of ramen noodles – which was all below $5. She also made the meal at the store, which is an example for a quick easy lunch to make.

Jones emigrated from Kingston, Jamaica, in 2002 with her husband and toddler son at the time, who is now 20 years old. The concept in Sam Walton’s book “Made in America” from normal to extraordinary inspired her to work at Walmart, she said.

Beginning as an unloader, Jones said she put her all into every role at the company, working her way up to co-manager of one of the few Walmart Supercenters in the Tri-State Area. Jones was hand-picked to attend Walmart’s prestigious Leadership Academy at its headquarters in Arkansas. The hundreds of employees she manages – ranging from 490 to 505 – look to her like a mother and mentor and when the pandemic hit, she shared that her team’s number one priority remained caring about the well-being of their teammates and customers.

Jones’ recipe is a unique culmination of her various inspirations. She was taught traditional cooking techniques by her mother and grandmother in Jamaica. They would boil the water over an open flame and cook noodles in many of her favorite dishes.

When she moved to America, the Asian and Korean restaurants in New Jersey and New York excited her palate the most.

“When I learned I won, I was excited,” she said. “I usually make different variations of ramen once a week with full vegetables and eggs.”

Jones said she never had an experience like the one she had with the celebrity chefs, which occurred Oct. 22-23.

“I learned a lot,” she said. “I usually like to stick to things I know when cooking, but have learned to try new things.”

Jones said she recently tried a rice dish with the Fresh Cravings salsa, which her husband and son loved.

The three winning recipes were unveiled in October.

Jay Whitney, FoodStory Brands president, said the goal with the partnership with Walmart is to honor grocery associates who worked and are working through the pandemic as essential workers.

“As a brand sold in the produce department, we believe highlighting accessibility of Walmart’s healthy and fresh ingredients is a welcome message to many, many consumers at this time as they turn to home cooking solutions,” he said.