February 21, 1994 was a magical day in my life. I was selected to be 1 of 100 finalists to be at The Pillsbury Bake-Off in San Diego at The Hotel Del Coronado. They closed down Sea World for us, we had delicious meals, a dinner cruise on The Lord Hornblower, and all expenses paid by Pillsbury. They did not leave a stone unturned. We were treated like royalty
On the day of the Bake-Off we were all a little nervous. I walked into the ballroom with 100 ovens all set up and my mini kitchen area fully stocked. It took them 2 weeks to set this up. Can you imagine supplying electricity for 100 ovens in one room? Then of course they had to have the temperature controlled as well. True professionals! They did not let the media in to talk to us until 30 minutes had passed. Smart on their part, I was able to start cooking and I was immediately at ease. By the time reporters came to interview me I was in my element. Alex Trebek was the host that year. He was very nice. He was kind enough to give me his autograph for my two sons. One older lady there came by and said, "Oh, honey, don't you know, soup never wins." And I said, "I am already a winner just by being here". And a winner all 100 of us were!
The next day before the awards they kept us away from everyone, and I mean everyone. They had leaked the winners to the press and did not want us to find out who won. They like it to be a complete surprise. The deal was that they would go through one catagory at a time, and if your name and recipe was called out you would stand up and that meant you won $2,000.00. If they called your name the second time it meant you won $10,000.00. Well I almost passed out when they called my name out the first time. I was in total shock when I was called a second time. They had all five of us $10,000.00 winners on stage, and the grand prize winner's dish would be under the silver platter. That person would win $50,000.00. When they lifted it up the gal beside me won. I was happy for her and gave her a big hug. Her and her husband had become friends with us over the last couple of days. She said in her sweet southern drawl, "I felt like I was having an out of body experience".
Upon returning home I was something of a local celebrity. I was in every local paper and interviewed on radio. My husband's friend even saw my photo on an airplane magazine. I was even told I was on CNN too.
I gave away cookbooks with my recipe in it to friends and family. The $10,000.00 dollars I won we invested into our sons college funds minus what was due for taxes. I framed the autograph of Alex Trebek and gave our sons that with a 100 dollar bill. Boy were they were impressed with Alex's autograph as well. I still remember how big their eyes got when they saw the 100 dollar bill. The Bake-Off has left me with such wonderful memories, it was a very special part of my life.