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Cookoff: Recipe Fever in America Paperback – Bargain Price, May 25, 2004

4.3 out of 5 stars 25 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this engrossing look at the competitive cooking circuit, journalist Sutherland follows the trail of competitions and a small group of regular participants. These often fanatical competitors, complete with their own Web sites and chat rooms, square off against the amateur one-time-only contenders at local and national levels across the country. With a healthy dose of humor, Sutherland conveys the inside stories and nail-biting moments as the regulars face off. From developing recipes to matching serving wear to outfits, the bravado of the male players and the disasters and pitfalls that can ensue for both regular and amateur alike, this work takes a long, thorough look at this American phenomenon. From chili contests that are more like frat parties to the National Chicken and National Beef competitions, Sutherland crisscrosses the country and along the way conveys her growing enthusiasm for and fascination with why one recipe or dish wins and another loses. She intersperses winning recipes with the account of her own growing delight, which leads her to enter a competition herself. Doing for cookoffs what Anthony Bourdain did for the restaurant business with Kitchen Confidential, Sutherland delivers a wonderful portrait of a true slice of Americana that should have readers reaching for their recipe files and saying, "I can do that."
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

An absolute gem... Sutherland has found a cast of unforgettable characters, a madcap bunch of dreamers, entrepreneurs, and kitchen wizards. -- Michael Paterniti, author of Driving Mr. Albert --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 014200474X
  • ASIN: B000IOEYX2
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,449,964 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By takingadayoff TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on December 9, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Before I read this book, I was only vaguely aware of the competitive cooking circuit. That is, I'd heard of the Pillbsbury Bakeoff, of course, and knew of chili contests. I had no idea there was a year-round series of national competitions, a la the PGA Tour or perhaps more appropriately, the Pro Bowling Tour.
The whole concept of a year on the competitive cooking circuit was a new one for me and I thoroughly enjoyed learning about it. Sutherland's reporter-style writing, lots of facts and descriptions, not too much analysis, really works. She examines the competitions, profiles some contestants, looks into the preparation for an event, discusses the history of cooking contests, and addresses the phenomenon of "contesters".
I have to agree with another reviewer that photos would have been a welcome addition to this book, the few on the jacket are great, but left me wanting more.
Apparently, cooking contests are uniquely American. According to Sutherland, "Through contests we embody the founding fathers' ideal... to make of ourselves what we can... Even if you are stuck in a dead-end job in a dead-end marriage on a dead-end street, in America you can rise above your station and reign supreme at the bowling alley or the dog show or the poker table."
Cookoff isn't really about cooking, it's about the competition.
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Format: Hardcover
Food writer Amy Sutherland has written a fascinating behind-the-scenes expose of cook offs and recipe contests. From the outside, such contests seem rather boring, with middle-aged housewives preparing grandma's handed-down recipes. However, much more is percolating under the surface!
Sutherland traveled around the country for over a year, attending cook offs and interviewing numerous contestants to write her book. She covers many of the biggest contests, such as the Pillsbury Bake-Off, as well as smaller ones, including State Fairs and chili cook offs. These cook offs, some of which have been around for decades, have become big business with huge purses and prizes, leading to increased drama. Sutherland details the cooking disasters, failed recipes, and occasional squabbles. Sutherland also paints a vibrant portrait of the cook-off regulars, who calls themselves "contesters." These contesters enter numerous cook offs, make many of the finals, and are absorbing to read about.
At the end of most chapters, she includes winning recipes from the contests she discusses - so don't flip ahead or the suspense will be ruined! The final chapter gives practical advice to readers about recipe contests and cook offs. After reading this book, I'm eager to enter a contest on my own. A most enjoyable book - highly recommended!
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By A Customer on January 19, 2004
Format: Hardcover
How can you not like a book that features a character like the mysterious Tunnel of Fudge woman? Amy Sutherland's wit and powers of observation make this a good read. Her exploration of a subculture obsessed with creating new recipes for various processed foods provides a fascinating look at who we are, how competitive we are, and how preoccupied we are with our quirky passions. Be it competitive cooking, golf, bingo, or skeet shooting, Americans love to win. Sutherland does a great job of showing us ourselves through this microcosm of American culture. A somewhat careless editing job is maddening, but ultimately, the author has researched and written an enjoyable, funny, and compassionate book.
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By A Customer on October 22, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I could not put this one down. It's hilarious, suspenseful, and surprisingly inspiring. Sutherland has written a book that's about more than competitive cooking...it's about competitive America, about the beauty of improvisation, and our sense that nothing--not even a drippy Tunnel of Fudge--is impossible. Sutherland introduces a fantastic parade of characters, as amusing as they are driven, as creative as they are kooky, and as truthfully and warmly rendered as I've read in any book anywhere. If you enjoyed Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, or more recently, Wordfreak, you will love Cookoff. Highly, highly recommended.
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By A Customer on November 8, 2003
Format: Hardcover
What a marvelous mix of entertainment and information on an issue I knew nothing about! Sutherland's journalistic approach takes amazing and colorful twists and turns as it lays out the inner-workings of the cookoff circuit where the players range from highly entertaining to overly competitive and crabby. I found myself dying to meet the queen of the cookoff, Diane Sparrow and wanting to cry over Cindy Shmuelling's bittersweet story. If you are interested in what makes people tick, this book is for you. As with all books worth their salt, I relished each new chapter and felt sad when it was over!
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By A Customer on December 29, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Who knew! Leave it to Americans to making cooking a sport, one where the freshness of a garnish can make the difference between winnng the big bucks or not. Sutherland is an apt guide of this world of competitive cooks with all their quirks. This book is not just for foodies, but for anyone the least bit interested in American pop culture. The cooks are vivid and compelling. The food ingenious to appalling. Part travelogue, food history and culinary who-dunnit, Cookoff is a winner.
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By A Customer on November 28, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I enjoy watching cooking contests on the Food Network, so I was eager to read this book. Unfortunately, the book does not capture the excitement of seeing the cooks in living color or touch your heart when they talk about their lives in their own words. You can't see the frustration on their faces when the cookies crumble or their radiant joy when they win. Reading that somebody smiled or the tears flowed just isn't the same. Most of all, you can't see the FOOD. Many of these cookoffs have been shown on the Food Network or Public Television, and the experience of reading about them is a distant second.
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