Thursday, 29. March 2012 5:25
The Dough Boy and I — we go way back. We’re tight — like this (fingers intertwined). He’s even let me poke him in the tummy.
So, I was thrilled to be united with my doughy guy earlier this week, when I was invited to be a judge for America’s oldest and most lucrative cooking contest, the Pillsbury Bake-Off in Orlando.
It was my third time as a judge in this competition. And my third time having a hand in deciding who went home with the grand prize of $1 million.
Started in 1949, the event celebrates the joy of home-cooking as only amateurs are allowed to enter. Each time, tens of thousands of entries from home-cooks are whittled down to just 100 finalists who compete to create an original, great tasting dish that will impress not only a panel of discriminating judges, but the entire nation, which has grown up with this iconic contest.
The judges are chosen almost a year ahead of time. From that moment onward, we had to avoid reading, seeing or hearing anything about the contest so that the contestants remained completely anonymous to us. You almost felt like you’d been selected for a secret ops mission, where information is strictly on a “need to know” basis. Hmm, good thing I packed a lot of black clothing.
We 12 food professionals took our mission seriously, too. A few of us were veteran Bake-Off judges, having done it once or twice before. But others were first-timers, nervous and excited about what the judging process would be like. Should we do stomach exercises to gird ourselves for so many dishes? Should we wear XL elastic pants that day? Just how many hours would we be stuffing our faces? Would we have to arm wrestle one another if we couldn’t agree on a winner in the end?