The nation's premiere amateur beef-cooking contest, the National Beef Cook-Off®, is announcing its 15 national finalists for the 2009 event. Sonoma, Calif., is the host city for the 2009 event, which will take place Sept. 21-23, with amateur home cooks battling for their stake in more than $70,000 in cash prizes. One finalist will be named the $25,000 "Best of Beef" grand prize winner.

The Cook-Off communication program targets food media to promote beef consumption by reaching food and health-involved consumers with appealing beef recipes that deliver on taste, health and convenience benefits. This promotion event, funded by the beef checkoff, provides significant opportunities for publicity. Media coverage for the 2007 Cook-Off generated nearly 3,000 placements, totaling more than 400 million media impressions. In addition, the entry generation phase of the 2009 Cook-Off generated more than 1,200 positive articles about the upcoming event reaching over 222 million beef-loving Americans.

Recipes this year focused on a "Sonoma-Style" theme and were entered in four categories:

•Live Well with Fast & Convenient Grilled Beef Recipes - Home cooks demonstrated beef's role as a healthy and easy option for busy families.

• Teens Cooking with Beef - Teens submitted their favorite family beef recipe that they enjoy preparing themselves at home.

•Lean Beef in Nutrient-Rich One-Dish Meals - Home cooks paired lean beef cuts with other important nutrient-rich ingredients to promote enjoyable, healthy meals.

• San Francisco Bay Area and Sacramento Counties "Best of Beef" Chefs - This category gave local professional restaurant chefs a chance to show their eclectic Sonoma flair for beef.

2009 National Beef Cook-Off® Finalists:

* Mary Hawkes, Prescott

AZ, Sonoma Steaks with Vegetables Bocconcini

* Kristina Vanni, North Hollywood, CA, Orange-Chipotle Skirt Steaks

* Roxanne Chan, Albany

CA, Bistro Beef Tapenade

* Deborah Biggs, Omaha, NE, Treviso Fig & Pear Steak Salad

* Veronica Callaghan, Glastonbury, CT, Grilled Steak & Plum Pizzettes

* Morgan Hanrahan, Olympia, WA, Southeast Asian Steak Salad

* Sebastian Helton, San Antonio, TX, Rustic Beef Caldo

* Sarah Qiuyan Bracker, Carl Junction, MO, Beef "California Roll" Salad

* Erin Ozment, Purcell

OK, Olympian Burgers

* Natalie Benthin, Grass Valley, CA, Sicilian Beef Short Ribs

* Elizabeth Bennett, Mill Creek, WA, Sonoma Ranch Steak Salad

* Fran Fehling, Staten Island, NY, Beef Ranch Zucchini Gnocchi

* Felice Bogus, Raleigh

NC, Sonoma-Style Beef Skewers

* Lisa Huff, Clive, IA, Beef Pupusas & Curtido Slaw

* Sonali Ruder, New York

NY, Pomegranate Steak with Quinoa

"We scoured the country to find this year's top beef recipes," said Sherry Hill, Cook-Off program manager. "From thousands of entries submitted by beef-loving cooks across the U.S., we narrowed it down to the 15 recipes that spoke to the 'Sonoma Style' culinary inspiration we were looking for."

Now more than ever the Cook-Off provides beef recipes that help meet consumer need for taste, health and convenience. The Cook-Off continues to inspire new beef dishes year after year. The winning recipes will be distributed to media outlets in the finalists' hometown markets up through the Cook-Off in September. After the Cook-Off, the winning recipes can be found on the Web site.

For more information, contact Michael Shriner/Ketchum, 312-228-6933 or