Editor's Note: Columnist Philip Potempa is reporting from Las Vegas while covering the 46th Pillsbury Bake-Off.
Following today's announcement of the $1 million recipe grand prize at today's 46th Annual Pillsbury Bake-Off contest in the ballroom of the Aria Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Queen Latifah plans to feature the winner and the recipe Thursday on her talk TV talk show.
Our local reader Julie Beckwith, of Crete, who is competing with her Upside Down Tomato Basil and Chicken Tarlets, is one of the 100 national finalists and this is her third and final chance to have a recipe entered to win.
This year's event is different than previous competitions.
"Since the very first competition more than six decades ago, the Bake-Off Contest has evolved to reflect changes in consumer lifestyles and cooking trends," said Ann Simonds, president of Pillsbury.
"This year, we embraced change in a big way. The contest introduced three categories with separate entry periods and, to ensure quick and easy recipes, entries were capped at seven ingredients and 30 minutes or less of active prep time."
Also new this year, after the Pillsbury test kitchen narrowed down and selected a pool of recipes from the thousands submitted, then America was asked to vote online to determine which of those filled the available category finalist positions to vie for today's $1 million prize. The three categories this year are: Quick Rise and Shine Breakfasts, Amazing Doable Dinners and Simple Sweets and Starters, with our own Beckwith's recipe competing in the latter category.
Of this year's 100 finalists, three are men. While there are not any contestants from Indiana this year, there are two others from Illinois: Marie Sheppard of Chicago and Arlene Erlbach of Morton Grove.
For decades, the late, great Art Linkletter was the traditional host for each year's Pillsbury Bake-Off. In later years, each year, it's been a new famous face, from Barbara Walters' "The View" co-host comedian Joy Behar to Dick Clark, who did the honors in 2004. Other famous hosts and hostesses from past Pillsbury Bake-Offs include Martha Stewart, Willard Scott, Marie Osmond, Alex Trebek, Bob Barker, husband and wife team Gary Collins and Mary Ann Mobley, Food Network's Sandra Lee and Phylicia Rashad. For today's event, contestants and media still are quite sure whose famous hand will be holding the microphone. The buzz I'm hearing is that originally, Dana Elaine Owens, known to us all as Queen Latifah, had planned to be here in Vegas with her TV crews not just filming segments, but also on stage to assist with announcing the big winner. However, I've been told by others that the 43-year-old singer and actress now turned talk show host, had to cancel because her beloved mother Rita Owens, is very ill. Marie Osmond, who served as the hostess at the 40th Pillsbury Bake-Off in 2002, is currently just across the street doing her long-running Las Vegas show with brother Donny at the Flamingo Hilton. So who knows? In a pinch? Stay tuned...