It all started as a simple solution to a wedding shower dilemma. Mary Buescher, a College of Human Ecology graduate student, wanted to make meat enchiladas but the bride was vegetarian.
The solution, pineapple and black bean enchiladas, took Buescher on an expense-paid trip to Orlando, Fla. There she won two awards worth a combined $20,000 in the 42nd Pillsbury Bake-Off.
She was one of 12 winners in the national contest that started with thousands of applicants.
“It was such a hit at the party. My friend said that if I ever see a contest, I need to enter this recipe,” Buescher said.
About a month after making the dish for the shower, while looking through a magazine, she saw an advertisement for the Bake-Off.
“If it hadn’t been for my friend’s voice inside my head, I never would have even thought to enter,” she said.
The contest required an original recipe which used at least two Pillsbury food products. Buescher had used three.
During the five-hour competition, she was required to make her dish twice – once for pictures and once for judges.
She was the sole recipient of the America’s Favorite Recipe Award. This award was new to the competition this year and was determined by the online votes of the public.
Buescher said she plans to give back some of her prize money to those who helped her win the award. She is donating to the Red Cross because, she said, victims of Hurricane Katrina voted for her. She also is giving money to St. Francis Regional Medical Center and the National Kidney Foundation.
“My sister-in-law donated a kidney to her brother-in-law during the competition but she still helped me win,” she said. “I could never compete with her generosity.”
Her success was well-received within her department, even if her culinary concoction didn’t have a direct connection to her food studies, said Allen Levine, head of the department of food science and nutrition.
“Of course we were pleased to hear about her success,” he said. “We are always happy when our students experience success, even outside of their studies.”
Buescher’s adviser, Dan Gallaher, associate dean of the College of Human Ecology, said her interest in the field of nutrition paid off when she won her second award, the 3-A-Day of Dairy Award. This was given to three finalists who included at least one serving of dairy in their recipe.
“Mary’s sense of creativity and her problem-solving skills helped her to succeed,” Gallaher said.