Whether lured by cold cash, a cushy cruise, or the chance to bolster their bragging rights, over a million Americans enter cooking contests every year. Joyce and Don Campagna have published The Cooking Contest Newsletter for more than a decade, focusing their gastronomic gaze on this growing craze and tracking the winning recipes. Now, they've compiled the best of these award-winners in The Cooking Contest Cookbook: More Than 100 Prize Winning Recipes.
Each competition from the national Pillsbury Bake-Off with its million dollar first-prize to smaller, local contests has a unique set of rules and a sponsor who uses these events to find out what consumers are cooking and eating. The cooking contestants come from every walk of life a psychologist from Texas, a homemaker from New Jersey, a market researcher from California but share a passion for kitchen creativity. And whether there are 30 contest judges or just three, all the recipes have been tasted and tested by the pros. From appealing appetizers to dazzling desserts, each category is filled with both international, trend-setting specialties and up-dated, all-American standards: inimitable Italian aromas waft from Sizzlin' Spicy Scampi Pizza; Mexican magic works wonders with orange-infused Yucatan Chicken, served with Peach-Avocado Salsa; Pacific Rim Glazed Flank Steak gets its vim from Asian seasonings; and for a new take on an a golden oldie, just bite into a sumptuous, super-chocolatey 3D Brownie. Inspired to enter a contest yourself? The Campagnas give you all the skinny on winning a big fat prize.
Sybil Pratt has been cooking up this column for more than five years.