University student wins in Pillsbury Bake-Off

Edgar Rudberg won the “entertaining appetizers” prize for his salmon pastries with dill pesto.

Edgar Rudberg has been slaving over the oven since he was a kid, and now he’s become a minor celebrity for his efforts.

Since 1949, thousands of recipes have been submitted to the annual Pillsbury Bake-Off, and this year Rudberg claimed the “entertaining appetizers” prize for his salmon pastries with dill pesto – earning him a $5,000 prize and a brand new General Electric oven.

Rudberg, a Ph.D. student in natural resources and management, was followed by the Food Network for the bake-off process, airing this summer.

Rudberg’s salmon pastries dish was his first shot at a bake-off and he said after some persuasion from his mom, he entered last-minute – getting a call from Pillsbury six months later.

The bake-off in Dallas consisted of 100 finalists creating dishes of all different kinds.

“It smelled, obviously, delicious,” Rudberg said. “It just sort of made you hungry as you went.”

Rudberg said he began cooking for his busy parents as a child – using a “kid’s cook book” – and by the time he was in fifth grade he had dinner ready for his mom by the time she came home from work. His passion for food has remained ever since.

“I really like food from all different parts of the world,” he said. “For me it’s kind of a cultural participation thing.”

The Food Network profile isn’t Rudberg’s first time in front of the camera. In 2003, Rudberg was on a reality TV show for Animal Planet.

The show, “King of the Jungle,” was like an Animal Planet version of Survivor, Rudberg said, adding jokingly he didn’t think anyone in America watched the short-lived show.

Inspiration for cooking comes from food’s connection with family and friends, he said.

Rudberg’s girlfriend, Kaitlin Steiger-Meister, said Rudberg always likes to be the life of the party and engage people in conversation.

“If there still exists the friendly Minnesotan stereotype,” she said, “then he’s probably the epitome of it.”

Steiger-Meister, a Ph.D. student in natural resources and management, said it’s fantastic dating a cook.

“He tends to leave the kitchen in ruins,” she said. “But what comes out of it, as a result, is always delicious.”

While Steiger-Meister said she’s a baker, Rudberg prefers cooking, creating a balance in the house.

“Baking is such a perfection type of art where you have to have a quarter teaspoon of this and tablespoon of that,” Rudberg said. “Cooking, you just throw stuff together with the right flavors and it just seems to turn out.”

Two years ago another University student prepared a winning dish at the bake-off.

University alumna Mary Buescher’s low-fat cheddar cheese was voted “America’s Favorite Recipe.”

Along with another prize for her pineapple and black bean enchiladas, Buescher took home $20,000 that she donated to the Red Cross, the hospital she worked at, and an organ donation organization.

Buescher said while Pillsbury now owns her recipe, it was her decision to submit it.

“Food is just a fun part of life and meant to be shared,” she said.