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Recipe to Riches

I have some exciting news to share. Well, it was exciting news up until this past week-end but I wasn’t supposed to go public with it at the time. Let me explain.

Recipe to Riches is a show which could be seen on Food Network Canada over the last couple of years, making the switch to CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) this year. It’s a reality food competition giving the opportunity to amateur Canadian cooks to share their unique and original recipe with the rest of Canada. Recipes are judged based on taste, presentation, originality, the story behind the recipe and it’s suitability to become a mass produced grocery store product. The prize? If you make it through your food category (desserts, appetizers, mains…), you win $25,000 and move on to the finals. The finals consist of mass producing your product, creating an image, packaging and a marketing campaign to promote it. You actually get to package your product with a caricature of yourself on the label. You are then sent out onto the streets of Toronto to promote it. Finally, your product is made available at Loblaw’s across Canada (a Canadian food chain), giving Canadians the opportunity to purchase your product and vote for their favourite recipe. The grand prize? $250,000! That’s a quarter of a million dollars! I think that sounds better, no?

My sweet and crazy girlfriend Sue rang me on a Tuesday morning a few weeks ago and asked me about Recipe to Riches. In those exact words, “What about Recipe to Riches?”. “What about it?”, was my reply. It turned out that the auditions were the very next day at the Loblaw’s just 5 minutes from where we live. “It’s a sign.”, declared Sue. “A sign for what?”, I wondered. Sue believed it was a sign for me to give it a shot. Just like that! She assumed that I could come up with something worthy of this major food competition being held the next day. Just like that! And just like that, I did! I wowed the judge, the professional tasters, one of the show’s producers, even one of the technicians running all over the place! Bourbon Bacon Jam was my recipe to riches and they loved it! So much so that I received a call from one of the show’s producers’ Monday last week, announcing that they were flying me to Toronto on Friday for an on-camera audition to be held on Saturday. You cannot imagine the exhilaration I felt! The excitement! In my mind, I not only spent the $25,000 for winning my category, I went on and spent the entire quarter of a million dollars!

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22 competitors from Montreal and the Maritime provinces were flown out to Toronto on Friday and put up in a lovely suite with a kitchen. You gotta have a kitchen in your hotel suite if you’re competing in a food competition! I had the loveliest view of Lake Ontario, the Toronto skyline and the CN Tower, which isn’t much during the day time but Oh! so lovely all lit-up at night. I kept the curtains open in my room so that I could catch a glimpse as I tossed and turned all night long.

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The on-camera audition turned out to be more than just seeing how personable you could or couldn’t be on-camera. We had beat out over a thousand contestants in Montreal and the Maritimes, only to do it all again with about 800 Torontonians! Only this time, under super-hot spot lights and in front of cameras. Surrounded by strangers instead of family and friends. And before a very petite, prim and proper, unsmiling judge. You see where this is heading, don’t you? Whereas in Montreal my Bourbon Bacon Jam created quite the buzz, in Toronto the 3 different foods I presented got but one tiny bite. Along with this comment: “It smells wonderful! I can taste the bacon, the roasted tomatoes, the caramelized onions… but it’s not ready for our shelves.” What did that mean exactly? You had to be there to see my expression go from excitement to utter disappointment! Or you might see it on the telly. My disappointment was not due to the fact that in my mind I had spent the $275,000, but because I REALLY, REALLY wanted to move on and do this! I so needed something new and exciting to get me going and this was my ticket.

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Although I was disappointed with the outcome, it truly was an exciting opportunity and I don’t regret it for a minute. I met some wonderful fellow Canadian foodies with whom I shared a wonderful day on Saturday, wallowing our sorrows in alcoholic beverages at some bar in Toronto. Yuri from Montreal with his deliciously addictive meatballs. Devyn from Moncton, New Brunswick, with his Oh! so divine, deep-fried, sweet potato spring rolls. Mandy from St. John, New Brunswick, with her out-of-this world mashed potato and coconut cookies dipped in dark chocolate. Terry from Halifax, Nova Scotia, with what I’m sure was a delectable curry dish if she made it past thousands of others and landed in Toronto. And Lyndsey from Sussex, New Brunswick, with her decadently yummy but healthy Pollywogs.

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We then proceeded to our very air-conditioned hotel lounge and continued with wallowing our sorrows in alcoholic beverages, courtesy of Terry and her hubby Mark. Mark made some very yummy drink consisting of gin, cranberry and water, on ice, and it was perfect!

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The photos of me presenting my recipe to the judge were taken at the Montreal auditions by my friend Sue. Unfortunately, we were not allowed to take pictures during the Toronto auditions. The Recipe to Riches logo/photo is from CBC.