GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. - A million dollars is at stake for Grand Junction resident Frances Blackwelver when she returns to her native Florida later this month for the 45th Pillsbury Bake-Off contest.
"I'm ready," Blackwelver said.
She's been practicing recreating her winning recipe - chocolate and caramel cinnamon skewers - for the contest March 26, which will be held at the Peabody Orlando Hotel March 25-27.
"They wanted it to be fun and easy, something people will make again and again," Blackwelver said.
Blackwelver, 47, was notified in September that she was one of 100 finalists from around the United States to be chosen for the all-expenses paid trip to Florida to compete in the bake-off.
Each contestant will compete side-by-side in 100 mini kitchens where bakers will be given four hours to prepare their creation three times - one for the judges, one to be photographed, and another for sampling by other contestants.
It's not the first cooking contest Blackwelver has entered, but it's the biggest.
"This one is the Superbowl of cooking contests," Blackwelver said. "I've entered cooking contests for years. It's my passion."
At a Grand Junction Farmers Market "Red Bird Chicken" cooking contest about four years ago, Blackwelver won a stainless steel grill for a spicy chicken dish she created.
She entered her antipasto curly pasta salad in a Betty Crocker "Suddenly Salad" contest and won a couple of cookbooks and a salad server.
As a runner-up twice in the Mama Mary's Pizza contest where one pizza was a "chicken carbonara" consisting of chicken, mushrooms, bacon and alfredo sauce, she won two espresso machines and a two-year supply of Mama Mary's pizza crust.
Each year she enters her wares in the Mesa County Fair, the Fruita Fall Festival, and the Peach Festival in Palisade.
It's not the prizes, however, but the love of cooking that propels Blackwelver to enter her culinary creations in contests.
"I've always been into cooking my whole life," she said, citing the influences of her mother and grandfather. "I remember cooking when I was real young, standing on a dining room chair pushed up to the stove."
Blackwelver said she's always hosting dinner parties for friends.
"If you come over I want to feed you," she said.
Contestants in Florida will compete in one of four different categories: Breakfast and brunch, appetizers, dinner entrees, or desserts. The $1 million grand prize will go to one of the winners of those four groups.
Various sponsors will also give prizes worth $5,000.
Blackwelver said she doesn't have any plans to buy stuff with the money should she win.
It's more about "financial security for me," she said.
The Pillsbury Bake-Off contest started in 1949, and was held at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City. It was held annually until 1978, and then changed to an every-other-year schedule.
To see the 100 finalists' recipes, visit www.bakeoff.com.