Meet Alison Strunk. At 27-years-old, she’s the youngest of the Top 100 finalists in this year’s Pillsbury Bake-OffÂ® contest.
What’s that feel like?
â€˜It was almost six months after originally entering my recipe last April that I found out that I was a finalist,â€™ the Springfield, Missouri-native says. â€˜Of course, I was completely shocked! In fact, I couldn’t stop laughing about it for days. I mean, come on. I only entered the contest for something fun to do. It was one of those things to cross off my Ã¢â‚¬Ëœthings to do in life’ list. I never really thought I’d be chosen! After the shock finally wore off, I had to start the next wait – another six months before the actual Bake-Off in April.â€™
Alison says she took inspiration from one of her favorite specialty pizzas in creating her original recipe for Red Pepper and Goat Cheese Bites. The description for it reads, â€˜Smoky bacon, smooth and tangy goat cheese, sweet red peppers and buttery, flaky crescent dough provide a great balance of flavors.â€™
Alison recently moved back to hometown after spending several years in Florida.
â€˜I got my Bachelor in Business Administration and Management from Evangel University (in Springfield), and then moved to Florida to attend the Art Institute in Ft. Lauderdale. I earned an Associates Degree in Fashion Design and remained in Florida working for Kash Ten Fashion as the Assistant Designer, creating girls’ clothing to be sold in boutique children’s stores throughout the country.â€˜
As for cooking, Alison says, â€˜I have been helping my mom cook for as long as I can remember. Of course, when I was younger, the Ã¢â‚¬Ëœhelping’ was really more observing, but I guess I must have absorbed some of it.â€™ She says she has no formal culinary training â€“ in fact, all of the contestants are amateur cooks, but has â€˜lots of experience cooking at home. Give me a recipe and I can make it.â€™
Alison says she enjoys experimenting, and that although the Bake-Off was â€˜the first recipe contest that I’ve ever entered,â€™ it probably won’t be her last.
When asked about her inspiration for the recipe, she explains, â€˜My idea for the Red Pepper and Goat Cheese Bites came from one of my favorite specialty pizzas. Of course, the actual pizza was somewhat different, but I knew that the basic flavors of red peppers, goat cheese and bacon worked well together. As far as entering the Bake-Off, I created the recipe specifically for it by using the eligible products. I used the crescent rolls as the base for the appetizer.â€™ She says she went through a few sample batches made with slight variations before coming up with the final recipe.
Alison has been practicing making the recipe, as well as doing radio and TV appearances. She is now ready to go to Dallas for the Bake-Off finals, with the other finalists. â€˜The Bake-Off itself is an actual contest,â€™ she says. â€˜There will be 100 kitchen workstations assembled in a ballroom and each finalist must make their recipe 2-3 times: once for judges, once for photography and the optional third for other finalists to sample. It will be somewhat stressful, but I don’t anticipate it being too intense. I feel like I can’t take it too seriously.â€™
The prizes that will be awarded include $1 million and GE appliances for the grand prize winner and $5,000 and appliances for each of the other four category winners. There is even the America’s Favorite Recipe winner this year which is determined by online voting.
â€˜Overall,â€™ she adds, â€˜the experience has been a lot of fun and a great opportunity. Not many people get to say that they were in the Pillsbury Bake-Off, especially at the age of 27. I definitely look forward to entering more contests in the future. Hopefully, I’ll be able to have another recipe with success!â€™
Read the results of the Bake-Off here.
See our story about your chance to vote for your choice in the Top 100 by clicking here.
Find Alison’s recipe for Red Pepper and Goat Cheese Bites.
See the Pillsbury press release by clicking here.