WILLIAMSTOWN - The best of the best were selected while participants received high praises from officials during the 58th annual Parkersburg News and Sentinel and Marietta A.M. Cookbook tasting and judging Wednesday.
Only 35 recipes of the 415 recipes from 47 contestants were chosen to participate in the final round of the competition at the Williamstown Women's Clubhouse in Tomlinson Park, according to organizer Sharon Coleman of the newspaper.
"The number of contestants is down since we usually have 60 or 70," Coleman said. "But, this year's contestants sent in as many recipes, so we had a lot to choose from."
Photo by Jolene Craig
The judges for the 58th annual Parkersburg News and Sentinel and Marietta A.M. Cookbook tasting and judging, from left, are Sarah Jalbert; Patty Christopher, a food columnist for the newspaper; master of ceremonies Fred Ponko with the culinary staff of the Blennerhassett Hotel and 2010 cookbook contest winner; Kiki Angelos, restaurateur and accomplished cook; and 2011 cookbook winner Lola Smith.
Also, of those recipes chosen by the judges, all of the dishes were prepared for the tasting and judged.
"I can't remember the last time every one was able to make their dish and be here," Coleman said. "I hope it happens from now on."
For many contestants the cookbook contest is a family affair with at least two families being represented in two categories.
For 31 years mother Anna Dean of St. Marys and her daughter Tammy Morrison of Newport, Ohio, have sent recipes in for the newspaper's cookbook.
"I started more than 30 years ago and when she was just a teenager Tammy decided she wanted to send in a recipe or two," Dean said. "We've done it every year since."
Morrison said she was 17 when she participated in her first Parkersburg News and Sentinel and Marietta A.M. Cookbook tasting.
"Mom and I start looking and deciding what recipes to send in almost as soon as the dishes are clean from the tasting," Morrison said with a laugh.
In their more than three decades of participation in the cookbook, Dean has won the grand prize once while Morrison has had three recipes chosen as the best.
"Cooking and being part of the cookbook is just what we like to do," Dean said.
For the second year, Joseph Sprouse, 12, of Parkersburg has been the youngest contestant and won second place in his chosen category.
This year Sprouse's Tony's Chocolate Pecan Pie was named the number two of five in the desserts category, while last year his Fresh Pea Soup was named the second best in the soups category.
"I'm really excited," he said. "I guarantee you that I will be back next year."
The judges for the event were Kiki Angelos, restaurateur and accomplished cook; Patty Christopher, a food columnist for the newspaper; Sarah Jalbert; and 2011 cookbook winner Lola Smith.
Fred Ponko with the culinary staff of the Blennerhassett Hotel and 2010 cookbook contest winner served as the master of ceremonies.
The presentation at the tables was part of what the judges graded the dishes on. The other criteria were taste, preparation, originality and the overall appeal.
"The decorations this year are really fantastic," Smith said. "These contestants are very creative and many of the decorations are tied into the dish, which shows a lot of thought."
Angelos said she was happy to try the new foods with the people she's worked with for years.
"All of us have been working together for so many years that we know what the others are thinking," Angelos said. "It's much easier to judge the food when we're working as a team, a big family."
Ponko of Belpre was a first-time judge last year and said he had a good time as a judge.
"I was really glad to be here and be part of the judging and tasting," he said. "I will have to enter (the contest) next year so I can be part of it again."
The top three winners in each category were chosen during Wednesday's tasting, while the grand prize winner will be announced in the Nov. 18 issue of The Parkersburg News and Sentinel.