Competitive Cooking Contests
The food channel is a ratings juggernaut. Their stars have achieved a level of fame that they are known by their first names only. Giada, Paula and Rachael et al.
This is indicative of a modern day Renaissance in the cooking arts. Sponsors are quick to react to this and sponsor cooking contests with big money prizes to attract attention to their product lines. They have a ready participant and a free advertising forum with international ties in the contest information site called: Cooking Contest Central owned by Betty Parham.
In an interview with her, this author repeatedly tried to tie Ms. Parham down as to how many members she had. She consistently side stepped the question. She did allow that her site currently averages 40,000 visitors per day. Since her site is a fee paid membership site, one can only conjecture as to the total members she has. One can do the math at $25 per year for the membership. This is an issue that her members clearly don’t have a problem with. They view it as a bargain for the services that they receive plus the value added things like online forums where people of like interest can chat with each other. Ms. Parham takes pride in the fact that many of her members have been with her since the site’s inception 13 years ago before there was a Food Channel. She also notes that her site features over a 1/3 of the Pillsbury Cook-off winners. One can admire the fact that Ms. Parham does not have commercials on her site and that she does not sell her membership list to other advertisers where she could clearly make a lot more money.
While she clearly does well financially, it is obviously true when she says she does it because she loves it.
I got to interview a couple of her members, a newbie to the contesting world and a more seasoned one with almost 6 years experience. Michaela Rosenthal is the more seasoned contester with a lot of wins under her belt. She prefers to enter the contests that feature all expense paid vacations. She claims to have won at least 3 per year since the beginning of her contest career. She has also won over $30,000 dollars as well. I have included some of her wins below.
From Food Network: January 2009 Ultimate Recipe Showdown – Comfort Foods
From Everyday With Rachael Ray: 2006 Stuffing Contest Winner
From the National Pork Board: “America’s Favorite Family Recipes Contest”
From Bertolli Olive Oil: “What’s Your Med Style” Contest
From Thai Kitchen: February 2006 Recipe of the Month Winner
From Simply Manischewitz: 2006 Cook-Off
Jennifer Tidwell is the newbie, young, stay at home mom and housewife. She has just this year won a $1,000 prize from a medium contest for her cheesecake recipe and another $600 prize. She aspires to be a personal chef and a cookbook writer. She has connections in the publishing world as well as a professional photographer as a friend who will give her a leg up into the publishing world.
The bottom line is… there is real money to be made in competitive cooking contests.
The contests are all free to enter. It is also a way to get your kids involved not only as a bonding experience in learning to cook, but a way to engender excitement with the kids. It also can serve to teach your kids persistence in pursuing a dream as well as patience.
You have to cook and eat anyway. Ms. Parham says that they have had first time contesters win big first place prizes on their first try as in this years Pillsbury Bakeoff winner. Ms. Parham also notes that there are a lot of men on her website as well, one of which is a finalist in this years Pillsbury Bakeoff. Who knows, maybe you could be the next Food Network star? You can’t win if you don’t enter, is Ms. Tidwell’s mantra.
As to this author’s philosophy of cooking, I say that you can achieve artistry in months rather than years as in other artistic endeavors. You create edible art by applying judicious amounts of heat to food to change the molecular structure to render a more palatable creation. Put on your thinking cap and invent some recipes and try your hand, its free, fun and a great hobby. The next winner could be you.