So, if you have not entered your mouth-watering brownie or your Grandma’s best apple pie or your amazing leftover turkey dish recipes into the Culinary Styles contests and competitions, what are you waiting for? The deadline is coming up – Aug. 8. The cooking competitions are one of my favorite traditions of the Fair. The women and men who compete – be it salsa, cheesecake or breakfast made on the spot – are majorly serious! There is some big-time competitive spirit going on here. With something like the BBQ contest, which is an all-day affair, entire families compete. One of the most interesting is the Great American SPAM Championship. I know! SPAM? That canned meat thing we took on camping trips? You can’t imagine the creative ways these in-home chefs prepare the canned meat camping food. One year we had SPAM sushi, then SPAM lettuce wraps, SPAM-stuffed mushrooms, SPAM quiche and SPAMbalaya! Last year’s third place was a sun-dried tomato pesto SPAM torte. Fun stuff.
Gingerbread House is always great to see. The houses come in already constructed and prepared for judging. Some are really cool. After the competition the houses are on display in Culinary Styles until the end of the Fair. Cookies, cakes, breads, jams, pickled veggies and more are also on display. Perusing the display cases is how I discovered a great turkey cookie for Thanksgiving, using a Nutter Butter for the body and candy corn for feathers. Remember, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. The Live! Dessert Contest is Sept. 26. This is where contestants have to make their dessert entry right in front of a live audience. No pressure! Stick with Canola Oil Fry it for the Fair is also fun. Participants can use up to 10 items to come up with a great deep-fried food idea that can be stuck on a stick.
Chef extraordinaire and Culinary Styles coordinator George Geary keeps the competitions light and fresh with his commentary and wit – our own Emeril! I’m hoping to get George to blog here in the near future. One cool thing from last year, an 83-year-old Pacoima resident entered her chocolate chip cookies and took third place. She and her daughters were so thrilled! The woman was resting in a wheelchair but walked up to get her award. So sweet, so fun.