One of the unexpected outcomes of pursuing a path in the world of food writing is that of being asked to judge cooking competitions. It’s not something I’d had in my scopes when thinking about this career path, but must say it’s a really enjoyable part of the picture. From salmon recipes in Alaska to Spam recipes at the Puyallup Fair, I’ve judged a lot of contests over the years. It’s one of those things that–from the outside–looks pretty swell. Can’t say how many times folks approach judges like me at these events and rib us, saying “hey, that looks pretty easy, maybe I should be a judge?” Yeah, well. Not so fast. Like being a restaurant critic, it’s not just about one’s capacity to eat and have an opinion about something. Lord know, everyone on the planet is pretty much capable of that! Judging employs a combination of a personal reaction to the flavors and textures, along with an objective perspective on the creativity, technique, and personality that’s infused in the dish. I’m not a big fan of capers, but I wouldn’t hold that against a contestant who made a chicken piccata. 

So — you’ve missed your chance to join the fun by submitting a recipe this year, for the 3rd annual Foster Farms Chicken Cook-off. But for the third year, I’ll be there at the Kathy Casey Food Studios in Ballard joining my good friend Kathy and other judges for one of the semifinal rounds of this year’s contest. If you’re available Friday, August 24 from about 4:30 to 7:00 pm, drop a note to Toby at and say “Cynthia sent me!” — the first 10 to do so will be invited to join the exclusive guest list for this private event. Five Washington semifinalists will be contending for a chance at 2 spots to move on to compete at the finals. And the finals are held at none other than the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in Napa Valley. On top of that, those 2 spots also come with a $1000 prize.

OK, so maybe next year you’ll join the fun a bit earlier and submit a recipe for consideration. Special attention is given to those preparations that showcase the chicken in style while using the best of local, fresh ingredients. But this year, you can get a behind-the-scenes look at the judging process and join us for a lively and tasty afternoon! Hope to see you there.