About Me

2004 Pillsbury Bake-Off Awards Ceremony - I'm on the right.
I'm Tracy Schuhmacher. I'm a free-lance food writer and a semi-retired cooking contester.

What is a contester?

Let me begin several years ago, when I was taking a breather from my marketing communications career to be an at-home mom. A mom in my sons' play group happened to tell me about her experiences in the world of cooking contests -- she had been to two Pillsbury Bake-off contests and had won cash, appliances and more.

With that, I decided to throw my hat in the ring, entering six recipes in the 2004 Pillsbury Bake-off contest. Imagine my surprise to get the call that I was one of 100 finalists in the contest! My husband and I had a fun trip to the contest in Hollywood, and I won my category in the Bake-off contest. The prize: $10,000. (Sounds great, until you realize that the woman in the picture to the left of me won a million dollars. But I'm not complaining.)

With Tyler Florence at the 2006 Southern Living Cookoff.
With that, I was hooked on cooking contests, and entered lots of them. This made me a "contester," a term for people who share the same passion. As I developed entries for cooking contests, the day-to-day task of cooking for my family became a creative challenge. Dinnertime was fun because we all discussed what we thought of my creations.

As a finalist in national contests, I had the good fortune to be able to take my husband and each of my sons on some fun, special trips. At some, I won cash and/or prizes (none bigger than the first Pillsbury win), but the best part was making friends with interesting and creative people from around the country.

With my son at the AirBake Cookie Contest in NYC.
As I became busier with cooking contests, my cousin, Michele, suggested that I start a food blog. This sounded like a great idea because friends and family wanted to know the results of contests very soon after I competed. A blog was a great way to share the information quickly. But before long, the blog took on a life of its own and became my personal recipe box and lots more. The name is a spoof on Rachacha, the nickname of my adopted hometown of Rochester, NY.

These days I'm not as active in contests for several reasons:
1. I am working as director of marketing and operations for Wickham Farms.
2. I am also busy as a food writer. I write free-lance restaurant reviews and food articles for the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. I also have a blog on the Flavors of Rochester web page (find it here); most of those posts are duplicated here. My food writing disqualifies me for several cooking contests which prohibit entries from "food professionals."
3. The economy has taken its toll on cooking contests. One of my favorite contests, The Southern Living Cook-Off, which had a $100 thousand prize, is no more. Neither is the National Chicken Cookoff, which also had a lucrative prize. Even the Pillsbury Bake-Off has cut back on their prizes.
4. A great many cooking contests are now decided by online voting. I hate the idea of pestering friends and families to vote, so I don't enter those.

I do not accept advertising for Rah Cha Chow. I'm sympathetic to people trying to spread the word about good products, though. If you've got a product you'd like me to try out, I'd be happy to do so, as long as you know that it may take me a long while to get around to including it, and if I don't like the product I won't write about it. The best way to reach me is by commenting on the blog; my email contact is: nywordsmith at yahoo dot com, but I check that email address sporadically.
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