Thursday, April 24, 2008

Float like a butter pat...

If you watch FoodTV or Bravo, you might wonder when did cooking become a contact sport. Show after show pits amateurs and/or pros against each other as they make cakes, casseroles, and cannollis. The pressure mounts and the time ticks away and judges wait to taste.

The zenith of these shows for me was an episode that pitted three professional pastry chefs against each other as they tried to read the text message tea leaves and figure out what kind of cake little Miss turning 16 might want for her big party on a yacht. The cake had to be three layers and feed 150 people. At the judging, Miss was dismissive, telling these professionals that their creations were either too juvenile, didn't reflect her theme, or the dreaded "you didn't listen to me". In the end, she selected a gorgeous cake that was way way way too old for her and the show ended with footage of her party on the yacht, while she twirled in her ball gown and ringlet-topped hair-do. Bleh.

Funny thing is that I don't generally like these shows (except the cake shows, because I have a secret dream of being able to make cakes likes these). Scenes of sweaty chefs racing around chef stadium to use the featured ingredient of squid doesn't generally turn me on. Be that as it may, I am getting out the culinary jump rope and beginning to train for a contest.

What contest, you ask? I'm still deciding. The Pillsbury bake-off was just held so the next one won't be for awhile. The Gilroy Garlic festival contest starts in December, so that might be a contender. There are contests for using canned sweet potatoes, for making bundt cakes, for lower calorie foods.

There is a whole underground world of competitive cooking; first rule of cooking club is we don't talk about cooking club - or do we? Websites list the various contests so would-be competitors can plan their strategy and enter their prize-winning dishes.

So look for me to enter the ring and go a few rounds. I'll post the good and the bad, the knock-outs and the busted noses. Good thing I've got plenty of aprons.

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