Have you ever wondered what it would be like to win a cooking contest? I would guess that this is not something that most of us think about on a daily basis, but it is a thought that might have popped into your head after reading about the last Pillsbury Bake Off or watching it on the Food Network. The Bake Off is the biggest cooking contest in the country and offers a $1 million dollar prize to the creator of the winning recipe – and that is a prize big enough to pique anyone’s curiosity. The Ungarnished Truth is a memoir written by Ellie Mathews, the winner of the 1998 Bake Off. The book gives some of her cooking contest history, beginning with the first local contest that she ordered for the fun of it, right up through the whirlwind of activity that occurs in the aftermath of winning the Bake-Off, such as interviews and TV appearances.
Attending the contest, I would hope that I would win it, even while I remind myself that the odds are slim. If I were to win, I would probably jump for joy and otherwise try to express my happiness – I doubt I would be able to speak coherently from the shock and excitement – at winning such a well-known prize. Matthews was not this type of person. She was much more reserved about the whole process and, while she certainly felt the shock of winning, jumping around just wasn’t in the cards. This might be one of the things that makes the book so interesting: Matthews is not so caught up in the emotion of the event and is able to paint a very clear picture of what she saw, felt and experienced. Even if it’s not how you would react, it is certainly an interesting story to read!
It’s also a good place to find inspiration, whether for everyday cooking or contest cooking, as Matthews explains how she came up with some of her contest recipes and theorizes on why they did, or didn’t, win. The recipe for her winning recipe, Salsa Couscous Chicken, is included in the book.