Pillsbury Bake-Off finalist from Western Pa. says to give the contest a try
If you have an idea for a Pillsbury Bake-Off recipe, try, says Tina Repak-Mirilovich. Just simply try.
The resident of Johnstown, Cambria County, did that, and later joined 99 contestants from around the country for the finals of Pillsbury’s 47th Bake-Off, held on Nov. 3 at the Omni Nashville Hotel in Tennessee.
All contestants met the challenge to invent an original recipe that has a maximum of seven ingredients — two of which must be a Pillsbury product or an approved affiliate’s product — and that takes 30 minutes or less to prepare.
Out of thousands of hopefuls, Repak-Mirilovich and three other local women women made the finals and took the trip to Nashville.
None of them won in the four categories — Amazing Doable Dinners, Savory Snacks & Sides, Simply Sweet Treats and Weekend Breakfast Wows — which would put them in the running for the $1 million grand prize, determined by public voting next month.
But Repak-Mirilovich — who is spending a few more days in Nashville with her husband, Anthony, for fun — says the experience alone was a fun privilege. The contestants cooked and baked on a huge stage with individual stations with ovens and counters for each person.
Repak-Mirilovich made her Creamy Cashew Turtle Pie three times during the allotted three-and-a-half hours, and sent the first one to the judges because it had the longest cooling time.
“It was great; it was very, very exciting,” Repak-Mirilovich said. “All the contestants do a grand march into the contest floor area and parade around the room once or twice.”She said she “absolutely will do it next time.”
Nashville was her second trip to the Bake-Off finals. In 1998, she went to Orlando, Fla., to compete with her Short-Cut Mushroom Risotto. She advises other aspiring cooks to do the same.
“I don’t think your recipe necessarily has to be complicated,” Repak-Mirilovich says. “If there’s a recipe that turns out well and you like it, turn it in. … I would absolutely try anything.”
Other Pittsburgh regional finalists were Heidie Kautz of Gibsonia, who made Triple-Layer Cheesy Ham and Cauliflower Sandwiches; Barbara Lento of Houston, Washington County, who made Macaroon-Cinnamon Roll Braids; and Doria Rizza of Scottdale, Westmoreland County, who made Chocolate Hazelnut Truffle Tarts.
For the first time in the contest’s history, the American public can determine the $1 million grand-prize winner by visiting vote.bakeoff.com, viewing the four winning recipes and voting for their favorites. Voting continues through 8:59 p.m. Dec. 2. Celebrity chef Carla Hall, the hostess of this year’s Bake-Off, will reveal the big winner on the Dec. 3 episode of the ABC series “The Chew.”
Kellie B. Gormly is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at [email protected] or 412-320-7824.