I didn’t sleep very well last night because I was SOOOO excited about this:
Like I mentioned briefly yesterday, I won the Dallas semi-final competition at the State Fair of Texas. The experience was completely surreal, and I am still slightly embarrassed by how truly shocked I was when they announced my name. Hopefully the video footage of it does not show up on the internet. Within a matter of a minute, I had hugged the host, announced to the crowd that my stomach was cramping, and yelled to Wike that I would have Bobby Flay sign the cook book she just won.
|Here I am finding out…
Wes and Lindsay (who will now be referred to as Wike to alleviate any confusion) were my two trusty fans and did a wonderful job of capturing the whole event on camera. I wish I had a picture with them, but somehow we didn’t get one. Thank you both so much for being there with me. It means so much to me and I probably would have gotten completely lost at the fair without you.
So, now for the details of the day. After a late arrival to the fair (not my fault this time), I rushed over to the Aetna Healthy Food Fight tent where I was met by Liz and Maggie, two of Aetna’s representatives. They were very friendly and immediately hooked me up with an apron and all my cooking gear.
Each station had a large oven and two stovetop areas for cooking. I was having a few problems with one of my burners, so I ended up using two different stations to cook my peppers. It worked out great considering I work best when I can spread things out.
Everyone from Aetna was so friendly and very helpful. They made sure that I had all of my ingredients and helped me whenever I had any issues with the stove. I had a few slight scares with my quinoa. Adjusting the burner to simmer was nearly impossible, so I had to watch my quinoa pretty carefully. At one point when I was browning the turkey meat on one stove, I left my quinoa unattended for too long and thought I might have ruined it. Luckily, I was able to add a little more liquid to the pot and it was revived!
One of my favorite parts of the day was getting to interact with the judges and people at the fair while cooking. We all know I love to talk, especially when it is about food. So many people stopped by my station and complimented me on how good my dish smelled. I was able to really talk to the crowd and tell them all about my love affair with quinoa. Hopefully I encouraged some of the people to pick a bag of it up at the grocery store this week.
There were five judges in total, so I had to prepare five servings and one full pepper for show. The orange bell pepper was my go-to pepper for the presentation judging. The color was beautiful. It had a perfectly flat bottom without having to cut it and looked so great on my bright green tray. I wanted my presentation to feel very “fall-ish” and I really think I accomplished that.
I added some candy corn to the presentation tray to emphasize my “everything in moderation” philosophy. And, it just looked so cute with all the other fall colors!
The judges had great poker faces. I honestly could not tell if they liked it or not when they were sampling my dish. It was all very nerve-wracking. I know I liked the way the meal tasted, but cooking is such a personal thing on so many levels. Some people don’t like spice. Some people don’t like bell peppers. My taste buds happen to like both of these things, so I thought the dish tasted exceptional. Luckily, the judges agreed.
Here I am telling the judges about my dish. I think I rambled about how it is a comfort food, is easy to prepare, and the ingredients are those that most people already have in their pantries. The only slightly different item was quinoa, and I really feel like it has become more mainstream in the last few years. I also apologized for not wearing closed-toe shoes because I ran 17 miles earlier and my toes were sore. Awesome. I really need to work on my nervous chatter/need to tell people everything on my mind.
After about a 45 minute wait, the Aetna team had the contestants gather up front to get ready for the results. During this time, Wike won said Bobby Flay cookbook that I mentioned earlier. We were all very excited about this thinking that would be our big win for the evening. Since I went into the contest with a lower total voting score, I really did not think I would win… like at all. I was completely convinced the other experienced contestant would win. When they turned around the plaque with my name on it, I was floored. So were Wes and Wike.
Regardless of the win, I had so much fun yesterday. I met some awesome people and hopefully encouraged a few others to try quinoa. The win was just the cherry on top.
New York City, here we come!!!!