Behind the Scenes of a Cook-Off

If you’ve not been a contestant in a cook-off before, it can be a bit intimidating. Especially when you have a judge who is very well known and an experienced chef and cook book author. Sara Moulton was that judge for my cook-off experience. Once I met her, however, I wasn’t as terrified. She is a very approachable and knowledgeable person. In one word, kind. She truly reminds me of one of my past teachers who was caring and wanted to know her students individually.

The Aetna Healthy Food Fight staff was amazing. They really did help everyone. I needed a grill for my recipe and when I requested, there it was.  There was plenty of kitchen gadgets and utensils to choose from. 

It really is different when you are in your own kitchen cooking and creating your recipe than when you are in a cook-off and standing before a large metal cooking station.

It was easy to forget the obvious kitchen tool or gadget. Thank goodness we could go back and get anything else we needed.

Before I had left for the cook-off I had been told to get approval for anything that could be brought from home. I could bring something from home as long as it was not an ingredient that had been created by myself. A store bought item was fine as well as a kitchen tool or gadget that was preferred to be used. I chose to bring the Chipotle mustard (Saucy Mama, of course), the sandwich thins and my own grilling basket. I know it silly, but I love my rubber spatulas, so I chose to bring one of those for spreading the Chipotle-honey spread.

I had all of my ingredients in front of me and knew that I needed to marinate my shrimp and slice my vegetables.

Then they announced that we could take questions from the people walking around at the Taste of Atlanta where the cook-off was being held. “Oh my!!” was my reaction. All I thought was I am already a little frazzled and now I’m going to be answering questions from anyone approaching me. So, I just had to deal with it.

It turned out to not be that bad. Just simply telling people about what I was cooking and that it was healthy and we were in a contest. We also had cameras around us at different intervals. That was probably the most uneasy part for myself. I didn’t like filming myself, and now I had a stranger doing it.

Also, periodically, Sara would come around with the MC and the cameras to ask questions. The loud speakers would broadcast to the crowd the interactions. 

Oh, and did I mention it was HOT!! I am so very glad I didn’t have anything boiling in front of me, or I probably would have passed out. The Atlanta heat, who would have thought in October!!

It was a great experience and once I had my dish prepared and waved my hand to show that I was ready to present, I was bombarded with cameras and people around me. I walked with the MC up to the tent where Sara Moulton and the other judges were seated and I carefully set down my Healthy Harvest Grilled Veggies and Shrimp Sandwiches with Chipotle-honey spread. (You can find the recipe on the Contest Entered page of this site.) I announced the recipe, my name and then told what all of the ingredients were; seasonings, etc. and of course, the Chipotle-honey spread.

I’m not sure that it won the competition, but I noticed that the judges looked impressed that it was healthy and easy to fix. Sure hope they thought it looked great and tasted great!! I then, wiped my brow, cleaned up and proceeded to check out the Taste of Atlanta and all of the wonderful booths.

I have to thank my cousin, Catrice, who went with me on this trip. She really helped me to not be nervous and have a positive attitude through all of this. She also had her camera and mine and took some great photos.  A truly great experience and I say, if you have the opportunity to submit a recipe in a possible Cook-Off….DO IT!! What are YOU waiting for.  Now, to find another one to submit to!!


About amrecipes

My love of cooking has taken over. I was on the net one day and saw an ad for a recipe contest. I entered. Then, I entered another. Then another, and so on and when I won a contest... an entire year's worth of tomato products, I was hooked. Since then, I've entered many many different recipe contests. I have won a trip to New York, entries into cook-offs, a recipe published in a Kraft/Paula Deen cookbook and many food products and food related items. I enjoy cooking and entering recipe contests. I hope I spark an interest in others to create something they can be proud of. I'm always getting more ideas from the internet. Wow, I remember not having the internet years ago. It's a God send and I'm trying to cover every inch of the food sites!! Join me in my quest to keep fresh ideas flowing and creating new and exciting dishes.
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