It’s Pillsbury Bake-Off (© 2013 ®/TM General Mills) season. Did you know there was such a thing? Competitive cooks do. The PBO (as we “insiders” like to call it) is the Big Kahuna of all cooking competitions, with a grand prize of $1 million dollars. That’s a lot of dough (see what I did there?). I know some competitive cooks who have tried for years to break into the PBO, but they can’t seem to crack the “code.” I also know several competitive cooks who can no longer enter because they’ve already danced with the Doughboy as a finalist three times. You see, Pillsbury has a rule that states that once you have been a finalist in three Bake-Offs, you can no longer enter. Actually, the rule provides that you are not eligible to enter if “you, your spouse, your parent or your child (all regardless of present place of residence) or anyone currently living in your household has been a finalist in three or more Bake-Off Contests.” That means if you’ve been twice, you can quit entering and give your hubby a chance; then when your hubby’s been twice, he can quit and give your daughter a chance . . . then she can go twice and quit so your son can give it a go . . . or you could just try for that third time and shut your family down. Guess which route I’m taking?
Yes, I’ve been twice. I’ve still got one more chance. One more chance to rise again (yes, I said it) and reach for the million dollar prize. My first time to the “show” was the 43rd Pillsbury Bake Off in 2008 that was held in Dallas, Texas. I competed with my Upside Down Caramel Apple Biscuit in the Breakfast and Brunch Category.
Then in 2010, I was lucky enough to be invited back to participate in the 44th Bake Off in 2010 in Orlando, Florida with my Herb Chicken Sliders with Raspberry Mustard. I didn’t win either time, but really, just getting to participate in the Bake Off is a prize in itself. Everyone who has been to the Bake Off will tell you that the experience is like no other. Once you’ve been selected and confirmed as a finalist, there are press interviews, lots of fanfare and media attention, and constant communication with the Pillsbury people to check and double check ingredient and equipment lists and travel arrangements. Then there is the arrival of The Apron.
Every Bake Off year there is great anticipation about the design and color(s) of the apron. It’s all very exciting!
Once you’re there at the venue for the Bake Off, there are receptions, dinners, parties and swag! It’s amazing to see the competition area – 100 mini kitchens assembled in one room! One stove/oven, countertop and cupboard for each finalist. And, of course, the Grand March! A regal parade of matching apron-clad contestants led by the Doughboy himself, into the competition area. After the Grand March, there’s no loafing around (tee hee). It’s LIGHTS, CAMERA, ACTION! Start your ovens! It’s cooking chaos for 4 hours. A happy, dream-like kind of chaos.
Mingling and hanging out with the 99 other finalists is really a trip . . . and if you’re lucky, you’ll meet some great people and you’ll have lifelong cooking friends all over the country. When I went to the Bake Off in 2010, I met Tina Verelli. She’s a sweetheart. We had both entered sliders. Sliders were big in 2010—I think there were 5 or 6 sliders or “mini-burgers” at the 2010 Bake Off.
Well, guess what? Tina got invited back to the 45th Bake Off in 2012 and her Pumpkin Ravioli with Salted Caramel Whipped Cream won the $1 Million Dollar Grand Prize! Wow! And I knew her before she was rich and famous. But seriously, she’s still a sweetheart and she just recently started her very own blog, too. Go check her out at www.Epicuricloud.com! Her first post just a few weeks ago was all about the Bake Off and included tips on creating and developing your recipe for the PBO. You should read it. Seriously, she knows what she’s doughing. (I crack myself up!)
The first submission and voting period for the Bake-Off has already concluded for the “Amazing Doable Dinners” category. We’ll find out soon who made the cut. The top 33-ish of vote-getters will compete as finalists at the Bake-Off in October in Las Vegas. There are two more categories left—so there is still time to cook up a winning recipe. In a few days, Pillsbury will be looking for recipes that fit the “Simple Sweets and Starters” category. In July, they’ll be asking for “Quick Rise And Shine Breakfasts.” Go to www.pillsbury.com for more information and complete rules. Good luck!!!