Erik Fredricksen, Stephanie's husband, says he's not too surprised about her success in the national contest. "I thought it could happen. She's always trying things. Ninety percent of them are great," he says.
Fredricksen's recipe already has survived a lot of competition. There were tens of thousands of entries, according to Lynda Kamps of Pillsbury's Product Communications Department.
All recipes went through rigorous screening, taste panels and kitchen testing. The identity of each entrant was kept confidential.
Recipes will remain classified information until Monday, Feb. 23, when 100 finalists - 17 men and 83 women - will prepare their creations in 100 mini-kitchens set up in an Orlando, Fla., hotel. Stephanie Ann Fredricksen isn't permitted to tell us what her entry is, but she can reveal that it is in the "Simple Side Dishes" category. Other recipe categories are "30-Minute Main Dishes," "Quick Snacks and Appetizers" and "Fast and Easy Treats."
Fredricksen, who will be 30 in February, says she always has loved to cook. Even as a child she liked to mix things together, and she says her mother often would throw her out of the kitchen. A customer service representative at Smith Nadenbousch Insurance Inc., in Martinsburg, Fredricksen has a dream of someday owning and being a chef in her own restaurant.
The 38-year-old contest has added "Quick & Easy" to its name, reflecting the way America cooks today. Recipes are judged in "jury room secrecy" for taste and appearance, quick and easy preparation, creativity, general appeal and appropriate use of eligible products, according to information provided by The Pillsbury Company.
One or more products from a list of eligible items must be used in preparation of the recipe. As one of 100 finalists, Fredricksen already has won $100, a KitchenAid Hand Mixer and an expense-paid trip to the competition. Besides the $1-million grand-prize winner, 12 cooks will win $2,000 each and a Whirlpool Microwave Oven; three category winners each will receive $10,000 and a Whirlpool AccuBake Range. The noncash winning finalist with the recipe deemed most convenient by the judges will win prizes including a Whirlpool Home Appliance Makeover - a range, refrigerator, microwave, dishwasher and compactor.
Fredricksen will have to prepare her creation three times in Florida - once for a photo, another time for the judging and a third to share with other finalists. Winners will be announced during the nationally televised awards program hosted by Alex Trebek of the "Jeopardy" game show live on CBS at 11 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 24. Rebroadcast will be on The Family Channel Friday, Feb. 27, at 3 p.m.
Fredricksen hopes the judges will have the same reaction to her creation as the guests at the August barbecue.
"Everybody just ate it up," she says.