Monday, April 2, 2012

Pillsbury Bake-Off: My Experience

Last week at this time I was at the 45th Pillsbury Bake-Off in Orlando, at the Peabody Hotel.  It's taken awhile to sort out what I wanted to share on my blog.  So many seminars, demonstrations, experiences, interesting people and yes, food! all packed into just a few days.  
Who's got the bigger tummy from sampling all the contest entries?

The Scottish salmon served at our dinner at Luma, a well-known restaurant in Winter Park (where the locals eat, according to Heather McPherson, the Orlando Sentinenel's food editor).  

Saturday morning's seminars started at 8:30 a.m. with a presentation by Kelsey Nixon of  the Cooking Channel's "Kelsey's Essentials."  A Utah native and fan favorite from "The Next Food Network Star," Kelsey talked about the importance of family mealtimes, and ways to make it happen.  She recalled her mom's commitment to family mealtime, and its positive impact on her life. 

It was fun seeing Kelsey again and hearing that she's hosting a new show, "The Perfect Three," as well as "Kelsey's Essentials." And she will be appearing on "Chopped!" as well.  

Kelsey's husband, Robby Egan, was celebrating his birthday — a great time for a trip to Florida and hanging out at the pool, then taste-testing some Bake-Off entries.  

This tray of little tastes was part of a seminar by McCormick on flavor trends.  Every year McCormick does a Flavor Forecast.  They correctly predicted the popularity of chipotle and smoked paprika. And a few years ago they predicted root beer would be a biggie, which is supported by all the microbrewed root beers out there.  But frankly, some of the other predictions (such as hibiscus or tarragon with beetroot) don't seem to gain traction in the average American kitchen. 
Some of the up-and-coming flavors they mentioned include red tea (a caffeine-free product of South Africa), grapefruit with red pepper, Meyer lemon, dill, sweet soy with tamarind and black pepper, and harissa. We'll see....

I was also happy to see another familiar face, Brigitte Nguyen, now host of the Cooking Channel's "From The Kitchens Of..."  She was one of this year's Bake-Off judges. In 2009, I covered the National Chicken Cooking Contest when she won the $50,000 grand prize for her Asian-flavored chicken burger. She also took second place in Sutter Home's Build A Better Burger contest.
While competing on the Food Network's "Ultimate Recipe Showdown," she caught the eye of producers, which eventually led to a job with the Cooking Channel.  She also has a weekly TV cooking show in Lexington.

We enjoyed a cooking demo from chef Jeff Henderson, whose show. "The Chef Jeff Project," is on the Food Network. He served nearly ten years in prison for drugs. While on pots-and-pans duty, he found a passion for cooking. When he got out of jail, he worked started at the bottom and worked his way up to becoming the first Africa-American named "Chef De Cuisine" at Caesars Palace. He was also executive chef at Café Bellagio.
He told his story in a New York Times Bestseller, "COOKED,"  (William Morrow, February 2007), and is being made into a movie. 
Henderson's Food Network show takes six at-risk kids and puts them to work in his catering store in an effort to turn their lives around. 
At this seminar, Henderson represented GE, which is gearing some of its appliances towards men. Their research discovered that more men are getting into the kitchen. The recession put a lot of men out of work, so many are taking care of the household while their spouses are working. As you can guess, these new stoves and refrigerators have more bells and whistles. There are some pretty cool features. But somehow, I can't quite picture an out-of-work husband whining for a new tri-ring burner range, double oven, or a snazzy french-door refrigerator that dispenses both hot and cold water.  

The media and supermarket consumer relations people had dinner at Emeril's Tchoup Chop (pronounced Chop-Chop). Martha Stewart, who was the host of this year's Pillsbury Bake-off,  was the special guest. The woman in the photo works on Martha's camera crew, and she did a huge favor for me that I will talk about in a future blog post!

Martha gave a slide presentation on her new book, "Martha's American Food: A Celebration of Our Nation's Most Treasured Dishes, from Coast to Coast." After such as great send-up, we were hoping she would give us review copies. Alas, no. She did give one to General Mill's head of advertising, Mark Addicks, saying her assistant thought he was "hot."

That was our "Food News Media Day." I'll follow with photos of the Bake-Off amd More Martha soon. 

1 comment:

Joey said...

Love your blog. I've already noticed the Meyer's lemons trend. And I'm up for almost anything dill!