Fenwick Island’s Sue Studz already knows that oven #19 at the 45th Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest is hers. Surrounding her in the Peabody Orlando Hotel ballroom at the end of March will be 99 other ovens and simulated kitchens — but no running water and none of their own ingredients or cooking utensils.
“Pillsbury provides everything,” said Studz. “I’m not even allowed to bring my lucky spoon!”
The 100 finalists, all amateur cooks, have had their original recipes selected from tens of thousands of entries. Each is vying for a winner-takes-all, grand prize of $1,000,000. The various recipes have been categorized as: Breakfast/Brunch; Entertaining Appetizer; Dinner Made Easy; and Sweet Treats. Studz’s recipe is in the Entertaining Appetizer category and is called Sushi-Style Crescent Crab Rolls.
Studz traces her love of crab meat to her parents’ kitchen. “Every year my parents made a big batch of Maryland crab soup for the freezer. We always started Christmas dinner with that soup,” she said. “I have caught, cracked, cooked and eaten crab my whole life.”
Known to her friends as a creative cook, Studz was inspired to concoct her recipe after eating a California roll in a sushi restaurant.
Unlike many part-time residents in the area, Studz spends much of the off-season here and reluctantly rents her townhouse with its lovely view of the Little Assawoman Bay in the summer. She is a retired vice president from a Baltimore consulting firm that specializes in marketing for higher education, “although, as I get the house in Fenwick ready for rentals every spring, I certainly don’t feel free of the working world,” she added.
As well as missing her house in the summer, Studz misses the large cadre of friends she has made in Delaware. Those friends were made in the aqua-aerobic classes at Sea Colony, as an actor and director of five performances for the Possum Point Players, and as a keen student at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the University of Delaware in Lewes.
Studz recently invited a group of these friends for a practice run to prepare 72 crab rolls at her home.
“I will be judged on taste, appearance, creativity and consumer appeal,” said Studz, wearing her official Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest apron as she encouraged her eager participants to help themselves to mimosas and wine.
“Delicious,” pronounced Linda Gabriel, an Ocean View resident and Osher birding class enthusiast, after savoring her first roll. “And I like the fact that you can prepare much of the recipe ahead of your guests arriving.”
Kate McNamee, who lives in Bethany Beach and describes herself as a “basic cook,” said, “I’m so impressed with what Sue has done, not only creating a wonderful appetizer but then taking the trouble to perfect the recipe and submit it in the contest. She is the closest person I know to being called a celebrity!”
Carol West, also from Ocean View, met Studz in Osher’s English Country Dance class. They quickly discovered they shared a love of the theater.
“We became roommates for a New York theater trip and then I ran the lights for The Rainmaker that Sue directed for Possum Point,” she said. “I was thrilled when Sue told me she was one of the Pillsbury finalists and that she wanted me to accompany her to Florida. She said I would be her calming influence! I don’t know about that, I’m so excited for her.”
West invited Studz for Christmas dinner with her family. Keeping her tradition of crab as the first course, Studz brought her crab rolls. “We all loved them and hope so much that she wins. This is a really big deal,” West said.
When asked what Studz planned to do with the million dollar prize, she responded immediately, “My aim is to be a permanent resident of Delaware. I hope the Bake-Off takes me to that goal now!”
The recipe for Sushi-Style Crescent Crab Rolls as well as those of all the finalists, and their names and bios, are on the Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest Website. Studz is listed as a Maryland participant.