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Cashing In On Cooking Contests

Aug 18, 2007
Do you have a mouth-watering dish that everyone loves? Do friends call and beg you to bring your culinary masterpiece to their next dinner party? Are you starting to suspect that the only reason that you're on so many party lists is because of that dish? Well, my friend, it sounds to me like you just might be cooking contest material!

Winning a cooking contest can mean a lot more that hearing some hearty burps after a panel of judges devourer your great-grandmother's rhubarb pie recipe. If you're lucky enough to win the Pillsbury Bakeoff, for example, then you'll be taking home a very tasty one million dollars and a complete state of the art kitchen.

Many cooking contests are sponsored by food companies who are looking for new and unique ways to sell their products. They generate a lot of publicity for their company and sales of their food items go up correspondingly. Some contests are sponsored by cookbook publishers and food or home and garden magazines. People love to get new recipes and they'll snap up a magazine that's full of the best of the best from the latest contest.

While not every contest gives away 1 million dollars, there are lots of $5,000, $10,000 and bigger prizes out there as well as contests that award new appliances, home kitchen makeovers, and lots of other things that you've probably always wanted but couldn't justify dishing out the dough to buy. There's a huge number of smaller contests where you can win prizes including recipe books, aprons and more while you learn how to develop recipes the judges love.

Entering a cooking contest is easier than you think; and if you follow some simple rules, you could be stirring up a pot of money with Uncle Al's Meat Chili Pie, or Grandma's heritage cake. Here are a few tips to get you started:

Rule #1 is: Follow the rules

Don't assume that some requirement in the rules isn't important. Many people get disqualified from entering contests because they ignored one of the small or even one of the big rules. For example, if the rules say to print your name in block letters on a 3x5 unlined file card, then don't type your name on the back of a napkin. Keep a copy of the rules in front of you when filling out and responding to the contest application and check each item off as you complete it. You'll be crying like an onion peeler if you lose the one million dollars because you didn't pay attention.

Rule #2: Make your dish sound delish!

Did you ever notice that finer restaurants serve 'fresh brook trout lightly sauted in a demi glaze sauce with toasted almonds, fresh truffles and baby asparagus,' while the corner hash slinger serves 'Broiled Fish and Vegetables?' Making it sound delicious the first step down the path towards winning that prize.

Rule #3: Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

And your panel of beholders, the judges, aren't going to spend too much time over a dish that looks like it was served in the mess hall of the 4077th MASH unit. Arrange your dish professionally. Presentation is the next step down that path.

Rule #4: Taste.

Your goal is to elicit a silent but honest 'Oh my, this is the best chili I have ever tasted in my life' comment from every judge that slurps from their spoon. After all, if they can get better chili out of a can then you're not blue ribbon material in spite of how good your dish sounds or looks.


No one can win every contest. If the cook-off bug bites you then keep on cooking until you take home the big one. Remember, there's only one grand prize, but somebody's got to win it. Learn a bit more every time that you lose and, one day, you could be spending one million dollars!
About the Author
Melanie Rockett is THE Contest Guru. Her website and blog serve up a list of dozens of contests for cooks and recipe writers. Check out the dozens of cooking contests that you can enter today
Blog: http://contestguru.com/contestnews
(c) Melanie Rockett 2007
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