Cookoff: Recipe Fever in America
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Cookoff: Recipe Fever in America

3.81 of 5 stars 3.81  ·  rating details  ·  155 ratings  ·  37 reviews
"Cookoff: Recipe Fever" in America is an anecdotal and entertaining look at the amazingly extensive subculture of cooking contests in America. Such contests range in importance from Spam contests at county fairs to the granddaddy of them all, the Pillsbury Bake-Off in San Francisco, where the grand prize is a cool million. In between are contests local and national, sponso...more
ebook, 352 pages
Published May 1st 2004 by Penguin Books (first published October 13th 2003)
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Sep 09, 2007 Stephanie rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Food Network watchers
Plain and simple, Americans love competetion and Americans love food. Competetive cooking is a natural.

I'm actually not a Food Network watcher, but I may start. This book was fascinating. If you thought that cook-offs are for homemakers at the state fair, you are wrong. There are cooking competitions for the every-day home cook that have prizes worth thousand of dollars. Women who have high-profile, stressful jobs and Type A pesonalities turn to "contesting" as a semi-professional hobby and have...more
My notes:

I love books about people obsessed with quirky stuff. I'm thinking Word Freak, American Bee, and now this one.

Surprisingly, the "big one" the Pillsbury Bake-off [insert trademark symbol] came off as a little blah.

The chili, BBQ and Jambalaya cookoffs are testosterone-soaked. The men get a little too high on their ego and hubris. This was also true in the other contests in which females were the primary competitors. Cautionary tale: Memphis in May BBQ guy who was the head of the "Airpor...more
Cookoff is a delightful book, well-researched and written in the breezy style of a newspaper feature writer, which Sutherland is. If you've ever toyed with the idea of entering a cookoff with the recipe your family and friends rave about, this is the book to read. It should turn you off doing that so fast it'll make your head spin.

There are amateur, but nearly professional, "contesters" who win nearly every competition, entering dozens a year. It's almost as though the field is fixed, although...more
Jennifer Cooper
I was aware of cooking contests before reading this book, but I had no idea that people got so fired up about them. Sutherland spends a year going to these contests and meeting the people who enter them. The contests range from big-time events like the Pillsbury Bake-Off to smaller competitions like those held at state fairs. The entrants are also varied. Some enter on a lark, without thinking much about it, while there are others whose lives seem to revolve around cooking contests-- they devote...more
Maria (Ri)
I loved this one!! There are so many colorful characters in the "contesting" world of competitive cooking. I had no idea that this world even existed until reading this book. I enjoyed that the author appears to be from (or at least nearish) Cincinnati, my hometown! I loved reading about these contesters so much that I had to DVR several Food Network Challenge shows to see them in person. It was so wild to watch episodes of National Chicken and the Gilroy Garlic Festival on tv and see Roxanne Ch...more
I really enjoyed this book. Like another review, I love reading about quirky, passionate people. The author attends various cookoffs (Pillsbury Bakeoff, chili cookoffs, Build a Better Burger contest, etc.). She does an excellant job highlighting the atmosphere of each contest. Some are a little wild!

What I liked most was that she followed several contesters (people who compete in many cooking contests over and over) and really tried to show what made each person do what they do.

This book was ve...more
Laurie Stoll
An interesting book about recipe contests and cooking competitions throughout the United States.
I guess I already had a little recipe fever from reading Food & Booze, so when I saw this on the remainder table at Vroman’s I snatched it up. Now the puzzle is who to loan it to first?

I enjoyed it even more than I expected to. Amy Sutherland has a very personable way of writing. I like that she admitted that she got involved with the people and the contests.

There are a lot more cookoffs and recipe contests than I realized. And, yes, I’m thinking about entering one and trying for beginners l...more
A fun read! Amy Sutherland traveled far and wide to experience Cook-offs in America. Fascinating yet light look at the whole different world of the cooking-obsessed. Is it the joy of cooking or the thrill of victory? Either way this book has me looking at the development of recipes in a whole new light. Never again will I look at a recipe without thinking of the person who might have developed it and did it win a contest or was it developed by company cooks to sell a product?
An easy read and pe...more
I was surprised that I really liked this book, but I did! It was one I would have never picked up on my own and didn't think I had any interest in the competetive cooking world, but I loved the author's style and how she drew me in. I found this whole new world of cook offs fascinating and ridiculous too, but it definitely was interesting. I found myself even rooting for certain people and loved that the author included some of the winning recipes (which of course I plan on trying for the book c...more
This is a good read, and I loved learning about competitive cooking, which is totally insane. HOWEVER, it's not so well-written--I think all of the sections of the book were written as separate essays. She repeats weird pieces of info so much that I think it was unclear which section would go where. There are strange interludes with a couple of competitive cooks that don't really make any sense. So that's why, while the book is a great read and totally recommended, it doesn't get more stars.
There haven't been enough food- and cooking-related books for my tastes lately, so I had to go back to 2003 for this one. It was so much better than I expected--all about the process of recipe creation, the people (a.k.a. "contesters") who enter cooking contests on a weekly basis, the rowdy chili cookoff circuit, and the evolution of America's relationship with processed foods and ethnic ingredients. Very enjoyable.
The author immerses herself in the world of competitive cooking, traveling with contestants to the big national contests: National Chicken, National Beef and the Pillsbury Bakeoff among them. She writes about each competition but also gets into the heads of the men and women who spend their lives trying to win them. It's a fascinating look at a national subculture. I found it utterly compelling.
Bethany Nelson
This was a really nice non-fiction book that anyone who enjoys cooking will like. It covers various cooking competitions around the country and tracks some of the people that seem to enter every single one of them. The book has a good overview of the competitions as well as background on the main people involved in the competition circuit.
Apr 19, 2008 Alison rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who like cooking and Food Network reality competitions
This book makes you want to invent brownies. And therefore, you should not read while dieting! But I've seen the people Sutherland write about on the FoodNetwork challenges, and it's really much more interesting to watch the shows after you've read this book, and know the players and their recipe cook-off track records.
Marjorie Elwood
Although I'm fascinated by cooking, this book just didn't come together for me. I don't know if it's because the cookoffs themselves were so disparate, or the fact that I don't think the author explored the cooks as deeply as I would have liked. In any case, a fun read, but not what I was hoping for.
Ever wonder what goes on behind the scenes of high-stakes cooking competitions? With hundreds of thousands of dollars on the line, Amy Sutherland takes out to the world of cook-offs. It was eye-opening to learn that the community of "contesters" is surprisingly small and HIGHLY competitive.
It was good. I like little more than an ethnography. I knew nothing about the world of cooking competitions so this was a lot of fun to read. I admit to looking at recipe contest entry forms after reading this. I only looked though - I didn't enter anything!
I've never really thought about cookoffs or the world of competitive baking and I don't think I ever want to again. This book wasn't engrossing, it didn't make me want to enter contests and I disliked almost every character in this book.
I love reading about people passionate about something somewhat obscure. Who knew there were folks all around the US trying to win so many contests! This book reminded me of "Word Freak." So many obsessions, so little time!
Oct 04, 2008 Linda rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: foodies
After reading this book, I now have a new understanding of those ladies at our County Fair that make an entry for every food category and seem to live for that blue ribbon. Very enjoyable book!
Fun and interesting look at a phenomenon that's continuing to gain traction. Good character portraits, but every now and then the history gets a bit tedious.
Susan Smythe
Sep 07, 2007 Susan Smythe rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: cooks/compulsives
Very fun to read - odd topic -- one of those, "I didn't know people really took this that seriously" - but alot of fun - made me consider entering.

Fun to read, and well- written, this book draws you in with lots of stories, engaging profiles, and even some recipes.
Helen Dunn
One of my absolute favorites! Cut throat recipe creators. So fun to read and see these folks when you watch Food Network n
I am a cookoff junkie so I loved it. However, I don't think it would hold much appeal to those who aren't so into cookoffs.
I'm a sucker for books about food lately. This one is about all those cookoffs being held in America each year.

Read 5 years ago. An eye opening and engrossing book about cooking competitions and contests.
If you liked Word Freak, read this. Oddly compelling, and I found myself designing recipes in my head.
3.5? Sometimes dragged but not sure if that was the subject or the writer. When she was 'on' I was engaged.
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