My strategy (or lack of it) for contesting “majors” ... and golf

In case you haven't noticed, the PGA golf season is now in full swing. I’ll sometimes have golf on the TV while I’m cooking, because I can follow the action while I’m listening, and look up whenever there’s an exciting shot. I have golfed since I was my 20s, and although I’m a total duffer, I enjoy playing the many beautiful, reasonably priced courses in the Rochester area. Living here has also given me the opportunity to attend several fun golf tournaments – the LPGA comes to Locust Hill Country Club every year, and Oak Hill Country Club has hosted some of golf’s “majors,” including the U.S. Open, the U.S. Amateur, and the Ryder Cup.*

Like golf, the world of cooking contests has what I call its “majors:”

The Pillsbury Bake-off contest ($1 million grand prize)
The National Chicken Cooking Contest ($100,000 grand prize)
The Southern Living cook-off ($100,000 grand prize)
The National Beef cook-off ($50,000 grand prize ... I'd post a link but can't get their page to load.)
The Sutter Home Build a Better Burger cook-off ($50,000 grand prize)

The season for the cooking majors is in full swing. National Chicken recently announced finalists for this year’s cook-off and I’m not among them (I entered three recipes at the last minute and wasn’t surprised that I didn’t get a call). Three of the others – Pillsbury, Southern Living, and National Beef -- recently announced this year’s rules.

When it’s entry time for major contests, contesters start strategizing. You see theories on the forum of Cooking Contest Central. Are your chances better if you enter early or enter late? Is there more competition in any of the categories? What food trend will get you noticed? How many recipes should I enter?

In golf, I play the best when I take a good look at where I want to hit the ball, line up my shot, and give the ball a good whack. When I start thinking too much about my swing or shot, that’s when I start whiffing, hitting grounders, or sending balls into the trees.

Similarly, my attempts to think too much about contests have not yielded great results. During the last Pillsbury contest, I figured that Pillsbury would want to have every qualifying product represented in the finalist recipes. My strategy was to come up with recipes incorporating qualifying products that I thought few people would use. I decided to work with Bugles corn snacks (not a qualifying product this time around). Not only was it an unhealthy period of eating in our family, it didn’t work. I wasn’t called to be a finalist.

I have had more success when I stick to playing around with things I’m good at cooking and enjoy eating. When I get to a point where I’ve created a new recipe that I like, I enter it in a contest that fits. Sometimes a recipe wins and sometimes it doesn’t, but at the very least, I wind up with recipes my family enjoys.

So as much as I’m tempted to go on a crazy cooking frenzy to experiment for this year’s contest majors, I’ve decided to take a page from my golf game. I’m just not going to think about them too much. I’ll cook what I like and if I wind up with recipes to enter in the contests, great. If not, at least we’re not consuming large amounts of such things as Bugles corn snacks. Plus, there’s always next year.

* For the record, I recognize that the Amateur and Ryder Cup aren’t technically counted as majors ... but they are still a big deal.

Note: I recognize it's been about a week since I last posted ... I've had a world of trouble with this post. Maybe it's moving to the new Blogger and maybe it's my own ineptitude. But I have tried to keep up with my twice a week goal...


erin said...

Yeah!!! A new post! I've missed you, O Great Cousin of mine!

ServesYouRight said...

Missed ya! More pictures please :-)

Tracy said...

Erin & Smita,
Thanks for the comments!
Smita, I'll be sure to pay extra attention to photos! ;-)

Tracy said...

Smita -- I posted a photo of Ming Tsai. Hope it makes you happy.

Anonymous said...

hi! I found your blog at random searching for info on the Pillsbury contest! You should post your recipes that didn't make it (unless you are going to reenter something similar this time), I'm curious to see what they were! Esp. if they had bugles! :) You can be vague if you don't want to give out any topsecret stuff :)

ServesYouRight said...

Thank you Tracy :-) You da best! The picture is fabulous, delighted to know the thing went well.


Tracy said...

anonymous -- Thanks for the suggestion. A losing recipe is posted above.

Smita -- Glad you liked it. I'm sure you were hoping for photos of food and instead you got my face. Too bad...