I auditioned to be on Recipe to Riches yesterday… for those readers from the States or the Canadians that may not watch the Food Network obsessively like I do, this is a reality show that takes home cook’s recipes and turns them into products to be sold in the largest Canadian grocery store chain. (For more info check out here: http://recipetoriches.ca/about) If you win your category you get $25,000 and if you win the show it is $250,000. Not bad for Canadian TV! (By the way – sorry this is so long to read… but I know some people want some details and this way I don’t have to keep explaining it!)
I originally submitted my Nutella Trifle recipe that some of my friend’s think is my best creation. For the show, you can either pre-register or show up that day as “walk-in”. So I pre-registered the trifle and found out the DAY BEFORE the audition that I was already eliminated from the competition. Apparently there were too many similar desserts. Well I was determined to go anyways so I made my Double Vanilla Chai Spiced Whoopie Pies instead and took them down. (I decided on this recipe because it has been the continuous favourite among my coworkers, which are the people that end up tasting the majority of my Whoopie Pies, and because it is unique and incredibly tasty.) Although it clearly says you cannot submit two recipes, I thought I would at least give it a shot. My plan was to tell them that I had wanted to change the recipe anyways… and submit this one instead.
I realized too that I should have stuck with a Whoopie Pie to submit – it is what I am passionate about and more my type of dessert. I shouldn’t have picked someone else’s favourite dessert – I should have stuck with my own!
I got there around 8:40am with the registration opening at 9am. My friend joined me thankfully as it was a long day of waiting and it was good to have some company. We had no idea what to expect regarding the number of people but since the day before I had been so disappointed, I didn’t want to wake up crazy early for more disappointment. After “checking-in” and receiving my number (I ended up 13th in line – and there were only a total of 36 walk-ins) that was pinned to the back of my shirt similarly to a number for a race, we went to sit in the first waiting room. The room had probably 200 or so people in it – some of the preregistered with appointments, the walk ins and everyone’s friends and family. This became the holding room and the cheering room. Basically any time anyone would get a finalist golden ticket, they would come in and make us all cheer like crazy for them. It got old quickly.
Those that had pre-registered and were there to meet the judges (i.e. the recipes that they thought were better than mine!) all had assigned times (although I am sure they still had to wait) while us walk-ins had to first wait to meet the director of the show before they decided that our recipes were worth going to the judges. Finally around 12 or so I was taken from the room with 4 other participants to the next holding space – just 5 chairs outside the room where the director was. When it was my turn to see her, she just asked questions about the recipe, Whoopie pies and a little about me. I told her all about the fun facts about Whoopie Pies, including where they originated and what they are etc, as well as about how I love to bake and what I do and some other basic info. She loved the idea of the Whoopie Pies and almost immediately told me I would be going on! (Whohooo!) I told her about this blog of course and she seemed to think I had
a unique product that the judges would enjoy! So I got the yellow ticket (note: this is different than the coveted golden ticket), which I was told to discretely put in my purse so as not to flaunt it to the other walk-ins that didn’t get a pass on, and was told to go drop off my food. Oh and she did ask if I had applied before (I had to submit a short video before) as she thought I looked familiar. I told her that I had changed my mind about what to submit and she said it was totally fine. (And after talking to the other walk-ins that moved on it turned out there were several that were in the same situation and came anyways – one girl came from Calgary and had already bought the flights etc before finding out she was out.)
From there, I was told I had at least until 2pm to wait to see the judges. So I rotated friends (one was busy in the morning, the other had afternoon plans – it worked out perfectly) and went for lunch. When we got back, it was apparent it would be a long time still. It was fun though to sit and chat about food with other foodies that had some great creations. Oh and there was more cheering… and finally around 4:30 I was moved to the last waiting room. Here is where you get your microphone and prep your food. If it hadn’t been at least another hour and a half before I saw the judges, it might have been fun. There were production crew, camera men, sound guys, food prep chef type people, and the contestants milling about. When I “plated” (really it was just a matter of placing them on the provided plates) the Whoopie Pies a lot of the production crew went on about how great they looked and sounded. One of the chef guys also told me that he loved Whoopie Pies and thought they were a great trend! This maybe got my hopes up a little… it is better to not have high expectations!
A note here: although we had the longest waits as walk-ins (all the appointment people went first), the crew really had the longest day. One woman I was talking to that is normally a culinary instructor had worked until 2:30am setting up the rooms and then had to be back at work at 6am. Apparently the main director guy had not slept at all…
Finally I went in to see the judges. I was told where I would be going when it was time and then blotted by the makeup girl (yes by then my skin was a tad shiny!). The director told me to be confident and excited about my dessert and to make sure I was a big cheerleader for it! Ok, done. I love Whoopie Pies! He also said to not be insulted if they didn’t swallow my food – it is like wine tasting apparently (thankfully they did eat it – I think I would have been insulted even with the warning). So I went in and told them what I had made and then all cut off a small piece to try. The response was sort of mixed. They all liked it but thought that it was too spicy (I should have been a little lighter with the spices – I know I like it spicy but not everyone does – it is like a Chai Latte: I like the ones at Starbucks because they are super spicy but many find them to be too much). The one judge said that she normally doesn’t like Whoopie Pies but she really liked this one. She said I make a very good Whoopie Pie! And then it went sort of negative from there… the biggest criticism was that it was an adult flavour in a child’s treat (although this was the same judge that made the above comment about it being so good). I guess because I didn’t grow up with Whoopie Pies I didn’t really get this (I really should have pointed out that most Canadians wouldn’t think that because most of us have not grown up with them). Another judge pointed out he wasn’t sure about whether to be expecting vanilla or chai based on the name – I told him to just call it a Chai Spiced Whoopie Pie then. The other thing was that although they think Whoopie Pies were the next thing behind cupcakes, they didn’t think it was quite time. They questioned whether it should be a product this fall or one for next spring. (This was sort of silly if you ask me – isn’t it better to be the trend setter rather than the follower?) One also commented that the spice was so heavy it made her think of going to the dentist and tasting cloves (that was a little harsh if you ask me) – the other judges were quick to turn that around to be more positive but still it was said. So then they had the “are you in or out?” conversation… I didn’t quite get whether any were in or out, it was mostly just obvious I wasn’t getting a ticket sadly.
It was still a fun experience though! And I will definitely try again! And here is what I have learned: I should have thought the flavour selection through a little more. As it would be the first commercially available Whoopie Pie in Canada, I should have stuck with a flavour that appeals to a wider audience. That is the goal for next year. I will be there with a Whoopie Pie that will make those judges yell WHOOPIE!! OK they likely will not so I guess I will just hope to be able to walk out singing “I gotta a golden ticket”. I think the key is to have a unique product but not TOO unique as it has to be marketable still.
written by Becky