How to Earn Money With Your Culinary Skills
Are you the type of person who views your kitchen as your laboratory or artist's studio? The place where you can let your creativity flow as you create your own culinary masterpieces and signature dishes? Do your family and friends rave about your meals and tell you that you should write a cookbook?
No matter your specialty from beef and chicken, to sauces and cookies, there's a cooking competition waiting for you, where you can enter your recipes for the chance to win a place in the spotlight and possibly even hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash and prizes.
Cooking contests and recipe competitions are some of the favorite promotional tools for magazines, such as Southern Living and Cooking Light, food industries, such as the national associations of rice, beef, and chicken producers, and food manufacturers, like Kraft and Pillsbury.
Their thinking, of course, is that these events will increase readership in their magazines and generate attention for their products. Judging by the number of contests, from the monthly ones in many magazines to annual ones, such as the Pillsbury Bake-Off, it seems to be a strategy that's working.
Before you enter a contest, however, it's important to know what, exactly, you're getting into. The two primary types of amateur cooking competitions are recipe contests and cook-offs or bake-offs.
Recipe contests are the easiest competitions to enter. Simply follow the entry guidelines of your particular contest and mail in your recipe. This is a popular one of many magazines, which often have a celebrity panel of judges who help decide the winner.
Cook-Offs and Bake-Offs
These contests are a little more involved as you will actually prepare your dish for the judge or judges. Chili, Rib, Hot Wing, and Barbecue Cook-Offs are popular all day events where local restaurants and establishments can gain publicity for themselves and earn bragging rights for the year (until the next cook-off).
The most popular bake-off is the Pillsbury Bake-Off, in which contestants send in recipes for baked goods that make use of Pillsbury products. 100 selected finalists are then invited to travel to a central location where they'll prepare their recipes, ("exactly as submitted") for Pillsbury's judges.
Now that you know the differences between the two types of contests, let's take a look at where you can enter your recipes and start building up your prize treasure chest.
Starting Local at County and State Fair Cooking Competitions
Though there's nothing that says that you have to start small and work your way up through the ranks, local and state fairs can be a good place to cut your teeth in cooking competitions and get some ideas for new recipes that you can create in the future.
Check with your local county government to find out the dates of your local fair, the food categories that you can enter, and the entry guidelines. Most state fairs have websites with all of the entry guidelines, prize amounts, and even the judging criteria.
Unless the competition has a sponsor, as many of the State Fairs do, the prizes are on the small side, varying from a blue ribbon to $150 or so for a first place winner. If you're after the big prize money, however, you've got to compete nationally.
Going for the Big Bucks in National Cooking Contests
Because of the attention and notoriety that they gain, as well as the size of the companies or organizations that host them, national cooking competitions can afford to payout more in prizes than local or even state contests.
Here are three of the top paying cooking competitions
- Pillsbury Bake-Off -- $1,000,000 Grand Prize and $5,000 First Place Prizes for each category.
- Southern Living Cook-Off -- $100,000 Grand Prize, $10,000 Category Prizes, $1,000 Finalist Prizes
- National Beef Cook-Off -- $50,000 Grand Prize, $10,000 Category Winners, $5,000 Category Runner Up Prizes
Now that you know how to do it, what's holding you back? Strap on that apron, dust off those recipes, and cook your way to riches! For more information, tips, and links to some of the best cooking competition websites, visit the companion post on this blog.