In a roundabout way, the unusually hot summer was responsible for Lucy Wilkinson’s victory in the Brunch for a Bunch State Championship.
“This year, my garden didn’t do well,” said Wilkinson, who earned Best in Show honors for her canned tomatoes at the Chesterfield County Fair in 2007, 2008 and 2009. “Since I didn’t have anything to offer [in her usual contest], I decided to enter a cooking contest.”
She decided to enter the Brunch for a Bunch contest, a competition for brunch recipes using six or more eggs. But, Wilkinson didn’t want to make another casserole or quiche, so she began searching for something different, she said.
She came up with brioche, a type of bread, she said, “and I decided to roll it in cinnamon sugar.”
“I had never made brioche,” she said. “It was the first time. In fact, when I entered the county fair, I never even practiced it. I just made it, brought it and won first place.
“For the State Fair, I decided to prepare a little better, so I made two and took the best one.”
The state contest had a lot of tough competitors, she said, and it was judged by four chefs from Fort Lee’s culinary school. When she learned who the judges were, she said, she got nervous, because they really knew what brioche was supposed to taste like.
“I was very surprised that I won first place,” she said. She beat out 27 contestants for the top prize, a $375 check, a year of free eggs and bragging rights, she said. Ron Farmer, who took second in the Chesterfield contest, earned an honorable mention at the state level, she said.
Wilkinson, whose kitchen wouldn’t be the same without the KitchenAid mixer her daughters bought her, said cooking was something she grew up with.
“My mother made everything from scratch when I was growing up and I helped her,” she said. “I guess baking in general is my favorite thing to do.” She grew up in the North, so baking is in her blood, she said.
“But don’t ask me to make fried chicken and biscuits,” she said, laughing.
The contestants in the Brunch for a Bunch contest, sponsored by the Virginia Egg Council, were all older, she said, and she thinks cooking and baking from scratch is becoming a lost art. There is definitely satisfaction in trying a challenging recipe and having success, she said.
“And, even if you fail at a recipe, it’s not really failure if you learn something from it,” she said, “because I have made some things that you would not eat and I have learned from it.”