Linda Brown’s big adventure began with an ad in the Sunday paper for the 42nd Pillsbury Bake-off, she says.
The competition would take place at a super-lavish Florida resort and she could win $1 million, according to the company website.
“Honestly,” she said in a recent interview, “it wasn’t the million that caught my eye.”
Winning a category would give Brown, a 45-year-old economic development consultant who lives in Oak Cliff, TX, a $10,000 prize and a chance at $1 million, according to Pillsbury public relations materials.
She hit the send button on the Web site and waited, she said.
As it turns out, this was far more than having a recipe deemed a finalist, according to research.
The Bake-off is the Super Bowl of cooking, carried out against a clock, with the winner announced live on television, says writer Michael Granberry.
Brown would be pitted against 95 women and three men for the chance at that annual sweet deposit in their bank accounts, says a Pillsbury representative.
Contestants mingle at lavish dinners and sign one another’s recipe books, like giggling high school seniors dashing off to college, noted one observer.
A rookie in every sense, Brown entered just two recipes in this, her only competition, she reported.
Dishes are judged on taste, appearance, creativity, and consumer appeal, an ad states.
Brown wants to look as “glam” as possible so at 4 p.m. Monday, less than 16 hours before the Bake-off she heads out for a “special ‘do.'”
“I had to tone it down,” she commented.
Then she dons an apron specially designed for participants.
At 7:45 a.m. Tuesday, the big day, contestants line up for the grand march.
As contestants march into the brightly lighted ballroom, with chandeliers that hang suspended from the ceiling, like enormous salad bowls, the announcer lets it rip to a cacophony of thunderous, prolonged clapping: “Let the 42nd Pillsbury Bake-off officially begin!”
Wearing their designer Bake-off aprons, contestants line up at work stations no more than five feet wide, consisting of a storage area and chopping block next to a stovetop with oven underneath.
“I’m a little shaky,” said Brown. “My dish is hot.”
Contestants are allowed to make the dish three times and required to make it twice, according to the rules.
Several contestants ask nervous questions about what happens if they’re force to stand in line while waiting for the all-important-drop-off with the judges.
Outfitted in a blue shirt with black pants and her white Nike shoes Brown is keeping her area every bit as spotless as she does her immaculate granite counter tops in her kitchen back home.
“They’re nicer here!” she says with a laugh.