Cooking has always been a hobby for Jonesboro's Chris Caston. Now, with a chance to complete in the 46th Pillsbury Bake-Off in Las Vegas and a prize of $1 million, the public's help is needed to make the chance become a reality.
“I was a finalist in the 44th contest. Now I'm a veteran and know the ropes. It's kind of like going back to Hogwarts for another semester,” said Caston.
His wit is undeniable, as is the worth of his recipe for a Cardamom Apple Coffee Cake recipe was inspired from his childhood neighbor. As a little kid visiting his elderly neighbor, Greta, Caston was often treated to a baked treat, a braided cinnamon twist.
Caston started cooking at an early age. At about 5 years old, he started making breakfast and lunch for himself and his older brothers.
“We lived with out grandparents. My grandma didn't really have a knack for cooking and didn't really enjoy it,” he said. His grandfather, however, did much of the cooking. There is a line of cooking heritage in Caston's family, beginning, perhaps with this grandfather who as a young man in the 1920's, cooked at the White Log Taverns in Glendale, CA.
His grandfather hired and trained a man by the name of Bob Wian. Eventually venturing out on his own, Wian started Big Boy Burgers and in 1933 offered Caston's grandfather half the share of the business. However, in the midst of the Great Depression, Caston's grandparents turned down the offer.
“So there's a long line of food history going on,” says Caston. With his grandfather acting as a role-model in the kitchen, Caston recalls the annual trips to 'Restaurant Row' in Los Angeles for a really good meal.
Caston and his wife, Sandra, moved to Washington County in 2002. Having been employe din the graphics world out west, Caston continues that work and does the graphics and layout here at MVNO. A hobbyist and collector, some of Caston's other specialty's and interests include collecting antique phonographs, Edison cylinder records and antique Christmas lights from 1904-1918.
“I like to have some of the first examples of something. It's interesting and a challenge,” he says.
As for the contest, Caston is a currently a semi-finalist in the 'Quick Rise and Shine Breakfast' category. Some of the stipulations of the contest is that it must be easy to prepare, use seven ingredients or less and have a universal appeal. The Pillsbury Bakeoff is a contest for hobbyists and amateurs, where professional cooks and chefs are not allowed to compete. One hundred finalists from all over the country are chosen to compete in one of three categories. There are 33 finalists already chosen in the 'Do-able Dinners' category, 34 in the 'Sweet Treats' category, and 33 will be chosen out of 60 for the 'Rise and Shine Breakfast” category.
This year is the first year the contest finalists have been chosen by public vote. Community participation is the most important part of this section of the contest. To vote, go to http://www.pillsbury.com/BakeOff/Voting-Home. Click on Vote Now. All that is required to vote is an email address, and the public can view all of the submitted recipes and contest participants. Caston's recipe 'Cardamom Apple Coffee Cake' is among the list.
With enough votes, Caston will get to go to Las Vegas to represent Washington County and all of Maine to compete for a $1 million prize.
“This is the biggest prize in the food contest circuit,” Caston says.
Everyone is encouraged to vote and to help spread the word. Links to the Pillsbury Bake-Off voting site can also be found on the MVNO facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/MachiasValleyNewsObserver.