Culinary Sleuth


Cooking Contest Secrets


by Lynn Kerrigan


By now every cook knows that a man (gasp) ran off with the million dollar 1996 Pillsbury Cook-Off prize. I've always suspected that most men were potentially extraordinary cooks. It's just a matter of getting them into the kitchen and letting them tinker with all the kitchen tools and ingredients. Kudos to the winner. Herewith are the secrets to a winning recipe in your quest for that next million.

The Secrets

  • Start with a Heart-Pounding Recipe Title—It's the first thing the judges see. Make them start salivating even before they taste it. Land of Enchantment Chicken, Great Balls of Fire (Sausage Chile Balls), Volcanic Nachos, Berry Cherry Biscotti.
  • Presentation is about appeal and may count towards 10% of your score. Remember that contests promoted by food companies are a way of advertising their product(s). Recipes that look great encourage people to "buy and try."
  • Get Those Creative Juices Flowing—Combine ingredients in a unique way or combine unique ingredients. For instance, I just learned that mustard enhances the taste of most foods including chocolate! Don't use exotic, hard-to-find ingredients. They should be readily available to the home cook.
  • Maximize Sponsor's Product—Use a lot of the sponsor's product and/or make it a starring ingredient in your recipe.
  • Follow The Rules—Read contest rules two or three times. One mistake can disqualify your entry.
  • Quick, Easy, Convenient and Healthy are hallmark recipe buzzwords. Create a dish that takes 30 minutes or less to prepare. Keep the ingredient list to a minimum.
  • List Ingredients in order of use. This is usually a rule but bears repeating.
  • Study Food Trends. Yesterday's fusion cooking was hot. Now it appears we're shifting back to basics with rib tickling Americana foods. Decadence is making a comeback.
  • Enter In Every Category. Many contests feature several entry categories. Improve your chances with as many entries allowed.
  • Finally, Test Your Recipes on everyone who will give it a try. Ultimately, the million dollar winner must taste like a million.
Contest Newsletters:

Cooking Contest Chronicle
PO Box 10792
Merrilville, IN 46411-0792
Sample $2.

Cooking Contest Newsletter
PO Box 339
Summerville, SC 29484
Sample: $2.

Free Recipe Sources

Seafood Made Simple
Send a SASE (self-address stamped envelope) for free seafood tips to:
Golden Dip't Seafood Made Simple
PO Box 2061-A
Rock Island, IL 61204-2061.

Savor The Flavor of Mushrooms
Get twelve new mushroom recipes. Send a SASE to
Mushroom Council
2200 Douglas Blvd., Suite 200
Roseville, CA 95661.

More Backyard Barbecue Basics—Volume II
Call 1-800-474-5568 for Weber Grill Line's 1996 summer barbecue booklet with all new recipes.

Sweet Talk About Onions
Send SASE to Sweet Talk
c/o The Thacker Group
1008 Second St.
Old Sacramento, CA 95814

Light & Lucious Recipes
A recipe brochure starring sweet Vadalia onions if yours for a SASE to
Light & Lucious
Vidalia Onion Committee
PO Box 1609, Vidalia, GA 30474.

Cracking Down On Liquid Supplements

If you watch TV regularly you've probably seen ads for products like Ensure or Boost, liquid supplements that makers claim increase vitality. The ads seem to be working as sales of Ensure rose 60% last year according to a report in the Tufts University Diet and Nutrition Newsletter.

What miracle energy source is contained in these milkshake-like products? Well, for one, calories. Ensure has 250 calories (the energy), 9 grams of fat, no fiber and the same amount of nutrients found in a regular multi-vitamin pill. The product typically costs $1.57. Cost of equivalent nutrients from a vitamin pill? Oh, about eight cents.

The worst thing about grabbing one of these gritty tasting shakes for lunch is you get no fiber. You can make the product yourself by mixing a crushed vitamin tablet with water, sugar and oil.


Text Copyright 1996 Lynn Kerrigan. No portion of this article may be reproduced for publication without express, written permission of the author.

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