I'm just not real sure why I'm laughing in this picture...or why my hair seems to be flying to one side.
People You Need To Know:
Person #1 - My Mom (pictured below - She's on the right. I'm on the left. The Pilsbury Dough Boy is in the middle.)
As soon as I knew that I would definitely be a contestant, I told my mom. Her next words were, "I'm going." :) I agreed. She and I have both entered several times, and we both knew that we would get to take someone with us if we ever got the chance to go. She and I do pretty much everything together...ok, that's an exaggeration, but we do a lot together. My dad says we are sisters born out of time. We act more like friends (and each other) than mother and daughter.
My mom took most of the remaining pictures on this post with my camera. We did not know that the poor camera was dying at the time. I was in the perfect place for pictures. I was on the very end of one of the rows of ovens, and I was on the end next to the audience barrier. Had my camera been working properly, my mom would have taken nine million pictures. The pictures in this post will be various colors and in various amounts of focus because she was trying her best to do anything to make the poor camera work. *Sigh.*
I would also like to add that as soon as I found out that I would be on the end of a row next to the audience barrier, I felt a sense of panic. My mom and I are so close that I was afraid that I may something to her or something to me without either of us thinking about it. Not wanting to be disqualified, I told my mom, "I am not even going to look at you during competition. We have than nonverbal-without-thinking communication thing going on, and I don't want to accidentally disqualify myself." She was totally on board.
She didn't have much time to look at me anyway. At twenty-five years old, I was the youngest contestant at the Bake-off. Several of the interviewers learned that I was the youngest after they had already interviewed me once, and then they would come back for a second interview. As I was interviewed by various people (either the first or second time), they would ask who I brought, and I would point to my mom. Then they would interview her, too. She's a good sport.
Person #2 - Christina Verrelli (Pretty sure the picture below came from her cell phone...)
So, the first day during orientation, they called out the names and range numbers of the contestants on the end of each row so that we would know how to enter the room for the opening. They called out my name and my number (34), and this really sweet lady in front of me says, "Hi. You're number 34? I'm number 33! I'm Tina. I'll be next to you." Can we talk about how blessed I was to be next to her?
We got along really well. We were next to each other during the cooking part of the competition, but we also were together before and during the Martha Stewart show. I'll talk more about her later, but just know that she's in a bunch of the following pictures...and she is the one who won a million dollars. I honestly could not have been more happy for anyone to win.
I'm not sure why we are cheering in this picture, but we definitely are. Aren't we cute? :)
This picture makes me laugh. Apparently the competition is about to start. I seem totally oblivious. Bless my heart.
Competition still hasn't started. I'm still clapping, and I'm still smiling.
For the first twenty minutes, no one can interview us. I decided to go through all of my little drawers to find where everything was.
I think I am asking one of the Pilsbury people if they would be offended if I set my Mango Lemon-Drop Sunshine Puffs in the drawers as I finished so that I could pick the best ones for the judges. We did not have a whole lot of counter space going on.
The picture is blurry, but you can tell I'm working. Happily, might I add.
I really enjoyed the competition. I really did. I have a lot of joy, but I tend to be a nervous/spastic person at times. I wasn't for this competition. I caught myself smiling even when I wasn't trying.
Still working, and still happy.
I wish I remember this guy's name. He was genuinely one of my favorite people who interviewed me. All I remember of our conversation is that he has a daughter named Harper who is named after Harper Lee. I told him that I actually went to college with Harper Lee's niece, Sarah Lee. Did we sing the Sara Lee song when she entered a room? Occasionally. :). Was he impressed? I think so.
I wish I had pictures of more of the people who interviewed me, but I don't. You'll just have to imagine for yourself. I can assure you that for every interview I was happy, and I was full of some Southern hospitality, ya'll. In fact, one newspaper called me a puff of sunshine. Aww.
Pilsbury actually sent this picture and the one below. This picture is a picture of all of the contestants...
...and this is a picture of just the contestants from the South. Good stuff.
So when Tina and I were hanging out backstage before the Martha Stewart Show, and she said, "You know, I think this is the last time I'm ever going to enter." (FYI: You can only be a contestant in the Pilsbury Bake-off three times. After the third time, neither you nor anyone from your immediate family may enter again. This was Tina's second time, and my first.)
I said, "Really? Why not?"
And she said, "Because I want my girls to have a chance to enter when they are older." Can we talk about heart melt? She has two cute little girls. I'm not sure how old they are, but I would guess young elementary age.
During the show, they called out a category winner's name after every ten minutes or so. They called the winner for my category, Breakfast & Brunches, first. I did not win, and I did not care. I really didn't. I went to have a good time. After the first three categories had been announced, there was a commercial break. Joey Kola took that time to demonstrate how the next category winner should stand up and act super excited all the way to the stage. Knowing Tina's category was coming, I said, "Now, when you win, you're going to jump up and scream like that, right?"
Tina laughed and said, "I don't think I'm going to win."
I said, "Why not?"
"Because all of the recipes so far have been kind of healthy."
I laughed and said, "But yours has pumpkin in it!"
I laughed and said, "But yours has pumpkin in it!"
Then she laughed and said, "But only a little bit!"
Then we had to stop talking because the show was starting back up. Martha opened the envelope and said, "Oh, I got to try this one yesterday." I saw Tina slump a little bit. Martha Stewart had been on the competition floor the day before, but she never made it over to Tina and me. She didn't even come by our stations, so when she said that she had tried it the day before, Tina just knew the recipe couldn't be hers. But then...Martha said, "Pumpkin..." I swear - Tina sat straight up. Then Martha said, "Ravioli..." and Tina jumped up screaming. I was so happy for her I didn't know what to do.
When she got up there, she was so cute. She said to Martha, "But I really don't think you tried mine." Martha assured her that she had tried it in the judging room. Not long after that, Martha announced her as the $1,000,000 winner. It could not have happened to a nicer person, and I am honored to have gotten to know her in the short time we were together. Congratulations Mrs. Christina Verrelli!