Wow, what an incredible last several days we've had! The 45th Annual Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest has come to a close and though Mom didn't walk away with the $1 million grand prize, we all walked away with memories to last a lifetime! I feel so blessed to have been able to share this once in a lifetime experience with my mom and am so glad she invited me along for the ride!
Mom at her station ~ #48
The 45th Annual Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest was held this year in Orlando, FL at the Peabody Hotel. Each finalist was allowed to bring three guests, but many people came by themselves. Pillsbury paid for the finalists entire trip, but the guest fee was pretty steep. We all got up super-early and flew into Orlando and arrived around noon. Mom and Pepo flew in from Houston and Caspian and I flew in from Chicago, IL. Pillsbury had private transportation arranged for all of us (even the guests)........I don't think I would ever get tired of having a driver ready and waiting to pick me up!
Pepo and Caspian
Caspian after a long morning of traveling.
They gave each of the finalist a 'Doughboy'......perfect for our own, real-life Doughboy.
Mom's quilting group made her a hot-pad and they all signed it with good luck messages.
When we arrived at the hotel, we checked in our rooms and then went down to registration. The finalists and guests registered and received their name badges. They had a wonderful lunch spread for everyone with things like roast beef and brie sandwiches, pasta salad, jicama salad, terra chips and tons of sweet treats like butterscotch blondies, brownies, chocolate chip cookies and so much more!
Kroger cocktail hour.
After lunch the finalists had a long orientation and then we all attended a cocktail hour hosted by the different grocery stores from around the country. Mom's store is 'Kroger' so we hung out with the folks from 'Kroger' and the other 'Kroger' finalists. After the cocktail hour we made our way into the semi-formal welcome dinner.
The food at the dinner was amazing!! The salad was to-die-for and the steak was cooked to an absolute perfect medium. The dessert was just delicious and went perfectly with our red wine!
Mom and fellow finalists in line for the Grand March.
Getting ready for the Grand March.
The next morning was the competition. We had to be at breakfast around 6:00AM. Then the finalists lined up outside the ballroom for the historic 'Grand March' into the Bake-Off. While the finalists lined up, the rest of the guests, media, and folks from the Martha Stewart Show made our way into the ballroom.
Kitchens all ready to go before the competition.
Station.......not too large.
Many people get star-struck around different movie stars, models, ect........nope, not me........I was almost paralyzed with excitement from being around Martha Stewart herself!! I must have taken a million pictures of her. And the fact that I was standing next to the Editor of Everyday Food Magazine and talking with Joey Kola (Martha's sidekick) was so incredibly thrilling!! Martha was so sweet and lovely. She was on the quieter side and seemed genuinely excited to be there.
Filming the opening for the Martha Stewart show.
Martha brought her own personal camera she was using to take pictures.
Yes, this was how close I was to them (I'm not using any zoom)!
After the contestants did the Grand March into the ballroom, a deep voice came over the sound system announcing the beginning of the '45th Annual Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest'. And from that point on the finalists had 4 hours to make their recipes 3 times ~ once for the judges, once for the display table and an optional third time for tasting (for media and other finalists).
The excitement in the room was so electric! There was media everywhere and Martha Stewart's team was walking around with several different crews filming, interviewing and tasting different recipes. I noticed that the Martha Stewart Show had certain finalists bookmarked and it turns out Mom was one of them. Martha stopped by several times, tasted Mom's recipe and took a picture of Mom's blackberries with Martha's own personal camera.
Finalists were given a disposable camera at their stations. Here is Mom with Martha.
Each finalist had a runner that was there to help them get ingredients or help them with any issues they might have. Mom really liked her runner, 'Cody' and she also made friends with the finalists on either side of her. She tried Pam's 'Loaded Nacho Burgers' and said I needed to link to them on the blog because they are SO good......Mom said she's actually going to make them tonight for dinner! So if you would like to check out the recipe for 'Loaded Nacho Burgers', click HERE.
Caspian Finn ~ the little Doughboy
My little man, Caspian Finn, slept through the first several hours of the Bake-Off in his stroller (he was a little under the weather). Once he finally woke up, I took him out of the stroller and put on his Doughboy hat that I made for him. I made a basic chef hat in white and embroidered 'Doughboy' on the front. And let me tell you.........Caspian was a HUGE hit! He had media swarming him......Martha Stewart's crew, Pillsbury, General Mills, Better Homes and Gardens, ect......The President of Pillsbury even asked me to take him over to have his picture taken with the real Doughboy. We had so much fun!
They even blogged about us (Mom, Caspian and I) on Pillsbury.com about us having three generations at the Bake-Off!
Click HERE to read the article on the Pillsbury website.
After the competition was complete, we were able to view all the different recipes on the display table. Mom had obviously had an amazing time and was on such a high from everything.
Mom, Pepo and Caspian
We spent some time that afternoon relaxing and talking about her experience. That evening was the celebration dinner where they had transformed one of the ballrooms into a night club. It was really fun and they had all kinds of stations preparing different foods such as Pad Thai, Lamb and Buffalo Sliders, Shrimp and Pork Quesadillas and much more. We didn't stay too long because they had an awesome band playing, but it was too loud for my little man.
The next morning we went to breakfast and got ready for the Martha Stewart Show. The Martha Show set was set up in one of the ballrooms and the show was broadcast live from the Peabody hotel and aired on the Hallmark Channel. The whole show was about the Bake-Off Contest. And while Mom did not win any of the prizes we saw her and her recipe in the television footage and Caspian and I were featured on the show as well!! Pretty cool, if I do say so myself.
Click on the video above to see Mom's recipe as well as Caspian and I in the Bake-Off highlights that were part of the Martha Stewart show!
After a slight feeling of disappointment that Mom didn't walk away with the $1 million dollars, a few hugs from her own little Doughboy certainly made her feel better!
The people at Pillsbury and General Mills did a fabulous job with this entire event. I can see why they only put this on every other year.......it is a lot of work! We made so many friends and got to talk to so many lovely people. The 45th Annual Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest is one that we will remember for the rest of our lives and as the folks from Pillsbury said, Mom is now officially part of Bake-Off history.
You can purchase the cookbook with all of the Bake-Off finalists recipes at most major grocery stores (usually located where you check out) or check out the recipes online. Also, I know many of you love to cook, so I would highly recommend you start thinking about a recipe for the 46th Bake-Off Contest that will take place in 2014 and definitely try to enter. I know Mom already has two pages of recipe ideas going.......yes, it was that much fun........she certainly wants to go for it again! Pin It