It’s a bright, cool morning at Fair Park.
Inside the Creative Arts Building, home cooks arrive to a test kitchen for one of the State Fair of Texas’ many cooking competitions. Hundreds of amateur chefs take part in these highly competitive contests, and judges sample thousands of homemade recipes for everything from bread and cakes to pickled vegetables.
In the end, only one cook takes home a coveted “Best in Show” ribbon in each contest.
Today, two contests are taking place: a citrus-themed challenge and another inspired by fair foods.
Brenda Simpson of Dallas is rolling in a wagon full of dishes she prepared the night before.
“And because of that I slept on the couch cause I was waiting for something to cool off,” Simpson says. “When I woke up it was 5 o’clock.”
Simpson hopes her candied orange rinds dipped in chocolate will delight the judges.
She says the key to sweet peels is cooking out all the bitterness.
“You boil it in hot water five times to get all that strong citrusy taste off,” Simpson says.
Contestants have about an hour to plate their dishes before they’re whisked away to await judging.