C.R.M.B. honors spirit of the baking industry

by Dan Malovany
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LAS VEGAS — Normally held at AIB International in Manhattan, the America’s Best Raisin Bread Contest (A.B.R.B.C.), run by the California Raisin Marketing Board, hit the big stage at I.B.I.E. 2013 featuring five proofer retarders, two rack ovens, a deck oven, mixers and other equipment and ingredients donated by several well-established baking industry vendors.

Just back in February during an I.B.I.E. preview, the A.B.R.B.C. was still in its concept stage. By April, the C.R.M.B. had all it needed to run the contest. By the time the show started, the C.R.M.B. created what Chief Judge Theresa Cogswell calls “a spectacular environment for a baking competition.”

“What amazes me is the generosity of our sponsors,” said Larry Blagg, senior vice-president of marketing for the C.R.M.B. “They realized what’s really going on here is that we’re honoring professionals and students.”

During the three-day contest, 36 finalists are competing in the breakfast, artisan and commercial bread categories. The breakfast and artisan competitions ran on Oct. 6 and Oct. 7, respectively. The commercial event occurs Oct. 8, and a group of international winners will show off their skills on Oct. 9. There are 12 finalists competing in each event. The day’s winners are announced each day around 4 p.m. I.B.I.E. attendees are encouraged to stop by the event, watch the finalists at work and even sample their products after judging.

Although this contest is in its sixth year, international best raisin bread competitive events have been going on for decades with Mr. Blagg dreaming up the idea 22 years ago in Japan to showcase the talent in that nation’s baking industry.

Unlike other cutthroat competitions, the A.B.R.B.C. focuses on networking, training and professional development.

“This is not an in-your-face, hard-knocking competition,” Mr. Blagg said. “This is a competition where people share information to grow personally and professionally. It’s all about working side-by-side and teaching people to share.”

During the breakfast contest on Oct. 6, Samantha Ring, Kendall College, Chicago, received the top student award for with her “Sweet Potato Raisin Roll.”

Other awards were:

Grand Prize Professional — Gold: Robert Nieto, Jackson Family Wines, Fulton, Calif., with his “Raisin Chardonnay Brioche”

Judges’ Prize Professional — Silver: Kaitlyn Guest, Gold Coast Ingredients, Commerce, Calif., with her “Golden Raisin Getway”

Idea Prize Professional — Bronze: Nancy Cain, Against the Grain Gourmet, Brattleboro, Vt., with her “Raisin the Bar,” which is a gluten-free product.

See www.loveyourraisins.com for more information and contest results.
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