Stirring, adding, subtracting, tasting and trying again.
That’s what Teton County residents do every year in preparation for the open class food exhibit.
But volunteers and judges of the division, which includes everything from breads and rolls to candies and cookies, undergo another kind of preparation, one that involves fairness, impartiality and commitment.
“We work real hard for nonfavoritism,” volunteer Linda Delgado said.
Delgado’s been competing in the open class food division for at least 10 years, she said. Although she’s humble, it can’t help but be noted that she’s the six-time grand champion of the bread category.
“I love making bread,” Delgado said. “And I like eating bread, too.”
Another volunteer, Doreen Tome, has also been involved in the process for years. Her children competed in Teton County 4-H growing up, from grades three through 12. Now they’re 25 and 20 years old, but Tome has continued to help.
“If my kids were never in 4-H, I probably would have never ended up doing this,” Tome said. “But after a while, you start picking it up.”
As the entries started to pile up — there were a lot of jams and jellies this year, Tome noted — talk of equity remained constant. Tome and Delgado handed the entries, one by one, to the judge — all the while never letting on if they knew who submitted what.
Jason Mitchell, a teacher in Central Wyoming College’s culinary program for 11 years, judged entrants this year. He also judged last year, and after multiple degrees from the Culinary Institute of America he knows what he’s talking about.
In addition to more traditional sweets there are also pickles and relishes to judge, as well as two relatively new categories: Teton County Outdoor, which included trail mixes, dried fruits and dried vegetables, and Dietary Considerations, which included gluten-free, sugar-free, dairy-free and egg-free concoctions.
“Choosing is actually one of the easiest parts,” Mitchell said. “It all comes down to meeting the standards of good baking.”
Mitchell pointed to a layer cake as an example. The baker made the cake with four layers, including homemade lemon curd and frosting.
“I have to reward that kind of skill,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell began tasting the spread — of cakes, bars, jams, jellies and more — at 9 a.m. Wednesday. He also judged farm fresh eggs, noting their shape, appearance, color of the yolk and more.
At almost 11, he said he still had a “long way to go.”
“I take small, tiny tastes,” he said. “A lot of the judging is visual. You eat with your eyes.”
Pies, for example, need to be cut into a hearty piece. That helps Mitchell know what it will look like “on a plate with a cup of coffee.”
Because if it falls apart, how can it be sold?
With so many categories, certainly Mitchell has a favorite.
“The bars are always fun,” he said. “It’s such an open class, so there’s a lot of variety.”
And as they say, especially in baked goods, variety is the spice of life.