El Jebel’s Kim Wille a finalist in Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest
Kim Doyle Wille, of El Jebel, spends a lot of time in the kitchen. Just on Thursday, she wrapped up canning 44 cases of jellies, salsas, pickles, pie fillings and other items for Plant a Row to End Hunger, a food-bank effort she coordinates.
Suffice it to say, she’s never been in the kitchen with $1 million at stake. She will be today.
Wille is one of 100 finalists in the 46th Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest in Las Vegas. Her Thai shrimp pizza grabbed attention among untold thousands of entries in the “Amazing Doable Dinners” division. Judges selected her as one of 60 semifinalists in March. The top 33 selected in an online vote advanced to the finals.
Wille is well-known throughout the Roaring Fork Valley, so her social-media effort to garner votes in the online competition bore fruit. She departed Saturday on an all-expenses-paid trip to compete.
“Yeah, I’m starting to get nervous now that I’m thinking about it,” she said before her departure.
To add to the pressure, she’s enduring an injury but will avoid a trip to the disabled list. She fell off a ladder recently while picking “big, juicy crabapples off a tree.” She messed up an ankle but is determined to gut it out in the competition from 8 to 11:30 a.m. today at the Aria Resort and Casino.
“Where there’s a Wille, there’s a way,” she quipped. “I’m going to bring my ‘A’ game.”
She said the strength of her dish is that it’s simple yet innovative — plus friends tell her it tastes great. The entries have to taste good (obviously), look good, use only ingredients from an allowable list and take less than 30 minutes to prepare, not including baking and cooling times.
Wille thinks she has an advantage because her pizza uses ingredients made by three Pillsbury companies: Pillsbury Pizza Dough, Jif Extra Crunchy Peanut Butter and Smucker’s Orchard’s Finest Pacific Grove Orange Marmalade Medley. In addition to the $1 million grand prize, smaller payouts are given for innovative use of Pillsbury products. Wille thinks her use of the Jif will capture the attention of the judges.
However, she realizes the competition is stiff. In addition to the 33 cooks in “Amazing Doable Dinners,” there are 34 competitors in “Simple Sweets and Starters,” featuring desserts and appetizers, and 33 contestants in “Quick Rise and Shine Breakfasts.”
That’s 100 top cooks — professional chefs aren’t allowed — vying for the big enchilada. Pillsbury has a website devoted to the competition and the cooking competitors. It profiles each of them as well as a picture of their dish and the recipe. Wille’s pizza looks intriguingly yummy, covered with hefty shrimps. Check it out at http://www.pillsbury.com/recipes/ thai-shrimp-pizza/daa7d528-0b38-4067-9209-55a09f56c832.
If Wille wins, she said she’s going on a vacation with her son, Cody, and will earn a degree at Colorado Mountain College’s Isaacson School for New Media to help apply her skills to battling hunger and other social-activism causes she is pursuing.
And if she doesn’t win, it will have been a great experience anyway, she said. She’s already working on plans to expand efforts next year to battle hunger in the Roaring Fork Valley and Lower Colorado River Valley.
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Colorado Gov. Jared Polis has tested positive for the coronavirus. Polis and his partner, Marlon Reis, both have COVID-19 and are asymptomatic, the governor said in a statement Saturday night.