That’s me and my Pea and Potato Salad at the 2013 Pa veggie cook-off. I’m the one on your right.
Live cook-offs are fun. But they can be nerve-wracking too.
It was my fourth time qualifying for this cook-off. Four categories, maximum of 2 recipe categories allowed per contestant to compete. Lucky me, I was picked for the maximum allowed. I’ve been in veggie cook-offs, meatball cook-offs, cupcakes, dessert, appetizer, BBQ’s and one ingredient showdowns.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not bragging. I don’t always walk away as a winner in cook-offs. But to get to the finals, I have a few tips.
5 Tips to Set You Apart From the Pack:
- Follow entry guidelines completely. This sounds like a no brainer, but I hear it stressed over and over from judges and seen it in contests I’ve judged. If the guidelines ask for recipes written as tsp. not teaspoon or list ingredients in order of use, take time to make sure your recipe measures up.
- Use common language. Keep instructions simple but not insulting.
- Be accurate with time and temperatures. Time each step. Add the time to the recipe. Its okay to also add a “its done when” in the instructions. “Bake for 30 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.”
- Think up a clever title. Grab the judges’ attention from the start. My most popular blog post title was “This is for the birds!” No I wasn’t giving up blogging. It really was about planting food for wildlife.
- Use easy to find ingredients.
Once you are selected:
- Make sure you acknowledge receipt of notification. Spaces must be filled. Don’t lose your opportunity to compete because you missed a deadline.
- Gather everything you’ll need. Don’t take for granted they will have spatulas, serving utensils, whisks and other hand equipment. Ask if your instructions don’t specify what the facility provides. For the same organization held at two different locations, one provided only stoves, refrigeration, table space and clean up sinks. The other also lent us pots, pans, towels, utensils, cutting boards and serving plates.
- Prep as much ahead as possible. Taste as much as possible. This helps lessen surprises like flavorless strawberries or tomatoes. Most cook-offs are time sensitive and you can easily lose time trying to cut perfect uniform veggie shapes.
Most of all have fun! Network and taste competitors dishes if allowed. All of their recipes met the entry criteria too. So what made them different?