Rewards Network’s employees are passionate about the restaurant industry and, like many people, they love food. Combined with a special talent in the kitchen, that passion could earn Rewards Network Account Executive Beth Royals $1 million. Royals is one of the top four finalists in this year’s Pillsbury Bake-Off, a national annual competition between amateur chefs creating original recipes using at least two featured Pillsbury products.
Thousands of entries were submitted in the first round of the competition, divided into four categories: Amazing Doable Dinners, Weekend Breakfast Wows, Simply Sweet Treats, or Savory Snacks & Sides. The Bake-Off Kitchens team narrowed these down to 100 recipes, including Royals’, for the Contest finals in Nashville on November 3. The competitors had three and a half hours to prepare their creations for an expert judging panel, which selected the best recipe in each category.
Royals’ Peanutty Pie Crust Clusters was crowned the winner of the Simply Sweet Treats category, but her fate now lies in the hands of online voters at Pillsbury.com/vote. Anyone with a Facebook page can vote once for their favorite recipe before voting ends on December 2 at 9:59 p.m. CST. The winner will be determined by a combination of votes and the judges’ scores.
As her third time entering the Bake-Off, Pillsbury’s rules dictate this is Royals’ last chance at the prize. With this experience, though, came more knowledge on preparing for cooking competitions and finding recipes that would please the foodie judges. “When entering a recipe [in the contest], I try to think of using the sponsor’s product in a way that hasn’t been done before,” said Royals. “When I come up with an idea I think is original, I Google it to see if someone has already thought of it.”
The inspiration for her Peanutty Pie Crust Clusters recipe came from her adventurous experimentation in the kitchen. “I was playing around with ways to use pie crust that I felt hadn’t been done before. I cut it up into little pieces, baked it and decided I would add it to something sweet. …Then the idea came to me: I would stir the flakey squares into a melted white chocolate-peanut butter mixture and make it into a drop candy,” Royals said. “The result was a sweet and salty, creamy, crunch, and flaky treat. People who taste them have told me they are addictive.”
During the cooking competition, Royals knew the best strategy was to relax and be confident. “I just pretend I’m in my own kitchen, cooking the dish for my family and friends,” she explained. “That way the busyness of the environment [including questions from the press] doesn’t make me nervous.”
Maintaining that calm confidence is essential, whether it’s in front of a crowd in Nashville or on a television show with millions of viewers. This is the next step in Royals’ journey, as she will appear on ABC’s “The Chew” on December 2 and 3. The winner will be announced on the show December 3.
While Royals doesn’t know exactly what will happen on the show, she has been preparing for her daytime TV appearance just as any chef would for a spot on the silver screen. “It’s good to practice your recipe a number of times so you can go through the steps without having to look down at the recipe or a set of notes,” said Royals. “I am preparing for my appearance by anticipating questions they might ask and role playing how I’ll answer them.”
The Rewards Network team will cheer on Royals as she shows off her skills on “The Chew” and anxiously await the results announced on the show and Pillsbury’s Facebook page on December 3. With such a creative and delicious recipe, Royals is sure to take a bite out of the competition!