DOUGHBOY OBSESSION PART 6
We had been told to dress in semi-formal attire for the awards banquet. “Semi-formal” is a matter of opinion. In my case, I would have been perfectly comfortable in semi-formal blue jeans and a semi-formal blouse. But, knowing that some of these finalists were going to be digging out their best of the best Sunday best, I found a dress for the occasion. As mom and I got ready my nerves really started getting the best of me. While I kind of knew I wasn’t a contender, there was still this tiny sliver of hope telling me that maybe, just maybe. Stranger things have happened. You can read about Pillsbury Bake Off history and find that there have been a number of winners that shocked everyone. Maybe I could be one of those.
We made our way up the escalator for the gazillionth time in 2 days. My first thought was “I’m sure glad I got a dress for this.” Everyone was dressed to the 9’s. We were all gathered outside of the ball rooms where the awards ceremony was going to take place. When the doors opened we slowly…and I mean sllooowly made our way down the beautiful blue carpet. It was like the red carpet of the Oscars complete with Golden Doughboys and all.
After a quick photo op with a giant Golden Doughboy, we entered the dimly lit ballroom. Maitre d’s (I’m trying to sound fancy here) offered us champagne as we passed. I didn’t imbibe for a few reasons. One of which was that I hadn’t had a drink in 20 years, and even the ones I had back then wouldn’t qualify as drinks unless sticking your tongue in a cup of peach schnapps counts. Needless to say, if I happened to be one of those shocker winners I didn’t want to risk being memorable for any reason other than taking home that check.
We found table #5 that we had been assigned to long before the Bake Off which blasted any theory about seating being assigned based on how you fared in the contest. For many years, award ceremony seat assignments weren’t made until all of the awards had been determined by the judges. They placed winners in plain site of television cameras and toward the end of aisles or in the front row so that they could easily make their way to the stage. If you were in the middle of a row or at the back of the room then it was almost guaranteed you weren’t up for a prize. The seating arrangements this year could have had something to do with the fact that the awards ceremony wasn’t being televised. We were all seated at round tables and our table assignments were determined by our range number. Table #5 was at the front of the room on the far right. Our table was next to table #4 (obviously) where Padma Lakshmi and some of the Pillsbury/General Mills crew sat. I was seated with 3 of my range neighbors except for the one that was on my right, Donna, who I assumed was seated with her mom who was also a finalist.
I had never seen so many forks or glasses in my life. Thankfully, the waiter did most of the work for me. If I picked up the wrong fork his long arm would reach over my should to move my forks around. He did it at least twice during dinner before someone informed me that you use the fork farthest from your plate first and work your way toward the plate. Now they tell me…..
The Kitchen Band kicked off the evening. Their performance ended with the announcement about where the Bake Off would be held in 2014.
I was so excited! Nashville is one of my favorite places. When I was a senior in high school in Montana, I competed in the National Business Professionals of America Conference in Nashville. When I was 19 I worked as a nanny in Memphis. Many weekends I would drive to Nashville by myself. In case you ever need to know, you can get really great seats at the Grand Ole Opry when you’re by yourself! As soon as I saw “Nashville” lit up on stage, I knew that I was going to try to get back to the Bake Off….if I didn’t win the big money this time around.
The meal was delicious and full of things I had never tried before. Between each course, Padma would take the stage and announce the winner of one of the special prizes. These $5,000 prizes were given for best uses of the sponsor products such as Jif, Eagle Brand, etc. While awarding the Eagle Brand award, Padma stated that she loved sweetened condensed milk so much that she could just eat it by the spoonful. Not saying she was lying or anything, but…..
One of the special prizes went to Julie who was seated at my table. It was her third and final time to compete at the Bake Off. I congratulated her and she said that she was excited, but it was bittersweet. Being awarded one of the special prizes meant that you weren’t in the running for the $1 million.
As the evening progressed, people began to get antsy. Las Vegas being in the pacific time zone meant that family and friends across the rest of the country were staying up late waiting for news. Cell phone screens were lighting up regularly, easily visible in the dimly lit ball room. Finalists were answering texts from impatient loved ones. When the time came for the top 3 to be announced, the air was thick with anticipation. As soon as the name of the 3rd finalist was announced, you could sense the disappointment. While we were excited for the top 3, I think it’s fair to say that 97 of us were just downright bummed. I thought that I was well prepared for going home empty handed, but the disappointment was real. I leaned over to mom and said “Somebody else just needed the money more than I did.”
No time was wasted in announcing the winner. Padma announced that Glori Spriggs and her Loaded Baked Potato Pinwheels had won $1 million. Before I knew it, confetti was spraying all over us. The confetti cleared. Padma was nowhere in site. Glori was left standing awkwardly on the stage with the inflatable Doughboy. I told mom “somebody needs to go rescue her!” Finally, Glori’s daughter made her way to the stage and Pillsbury folks joined her. Glori would have a press conference right away then be whisked to the airport where a private jet was waiting to take her to Los Angeles where she would appear on the Queen Latifah Show.
The room cleared quickly. I dreaded calling my husband and kids. They were certain I was going to win and had big hopes of fun road trips and a new car. Ugh. I had tried to prepare them before I left, but knew that they were going to be disappointed. I knew from conversations I had had with other finalists during the Bake Off that everyone was going through the same thing. The family, friends, and communities that we had left behind were all rooting for us and were certain that each of us was going to win. It was going to be a rough night making those phone calls.
The next morning we made our way to breakfast. The room that had previously been beautifully decorated and festive was now empty save for some tables, folding chairs, and two long tables of buffet breakfast food. It was obvious that the party was over. We sat down to eat when we were joined by two other finalists from Pennsylvania. One of these finalists had been to the Bake Off 14 years before and had been trying to get back ever since.
The flight home was a long one. We were exhausted. The emotional sting had subsided some, but I knew that I’d be facing questions for days to come. When I pulled into our driveway late Tuesday night, my kids and husband came running out to meet me. Man, I needed those hugs. I walked into the house to find a huge banner hanging in the living room with another banner that had been signed by all of my friends from church. Messages like “I’m so proud of you!” and “We love you!” were just what I needed to hear. The kids fired questions at me as fast as I could answer them. I emptied out my goodie laden tote bag full of sponsor products from the Bake Off. I got dibs on the plastic Doughboy and Jolly Green Giant and handed out the rest to the kids. It was like Christmas at our house that night.
Stories from the Bake Off would be told for weeks afterward. Things that I had forgotten about would come back to me at random times. I think my kids finally got tired of Bake Off stories, and just when they thought I was done talking about it, it was time to gear up for the next Bake Off. We had been told that details for the 47th Bake Off would be announced in January. January came and went. Come on, already! I was ready to get back in Bake Off mode. Finally, on Valentine’s Day, entries opened for the 47th Pillsbury Bake Off. Within minutes of the new details being posted, I was online reading rule changes and qualifying sponsor products. A recipe idea came to me almost immediately. The first thing I do when I have a recipe idea is scour the internet to make sure it’s original. Pillsbury makes it pretty clear that only truly original recipes will compete in the Bake Off. As a matter of fact, part of the process of picking finalists includes digging through magazines and cookbooks and websites to make sure that a recipe is one of a kind. I couldn’t find anything like mine online…..Google, Pinterest, etc. Yay! I raced to WalMart for supplies, had the dish made and the recipe submitted within a few hours of the contest opening. Over the course of the next several weeks I developed more recipes, but that first one is by far my favorite.
It is now about a week until finalists are notified for this year’s Bake Off in Nashville. I want to go. Bad. I would love to compete in Nashville, but even if I don’t make it this time you can guarantee that I will keep trying. You know what it’s like when you admire someone for a long time and finally get to meet them only to be disappointed? The Bake Off it definitely not like that. It’s even better than you can imagine.
Thanks for reading my story. I hope that it can be added to in years to come. My next post will be some of my random thoughts, theories, and facts about the Bake Off. These are things that I learned while studying up on the Bake Off prior to being chosen as a finalist. Other things are things I learned while at the contest. Enjoy!