We're issuing a challenge to potential cooking columnists

2014-07-20T00:00:00Z 2014-08-05T15:39:05Z We're issuing a challenge to potential cooking columnistsBy DARRELL EHRLICK dehrlick@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

A little more than a month ago, Gazette institution and longtime cooking columnist Joyce Michels announced she was hanging up the skillet and retiring after decades of hunting down recipes and pleasing picky readers’ palates.

I asked for folks who might be interested in becoming the next cooking columnist for The Gazette. I heard from a lot of folks. Some told me what they wanted in the next columnist. Some told me about a recipe they were looking for. Some nominated good cooks and chefs they knew. And a brave handful of souls, five to be exact, said they’d be willing to try their cooking hands at writing about food and recipes.

As I pored through their letters, it was clear each was qualified in their own way. Some had degrees from cooking institutes. Some had their own restaurants. And some had writing chops.

As I began to formulate the criteria of how to choose the next food columnist, I realized I was creating a columnist that would be perfect for Darrell Ehrlick.

Sure, I could try to hide ulterior motives and ask each to make their best pastry or cookies or doughnut, all under the guise of a cooking contest. Again, that would just determine which cook I liked the best, and may not reflect which one of the talented lot would do the best job. And, I need another doughnut like a ... well, fat guy needs a doughnut.

The entire purpose of asking folks to apply was to get participation. And, I truly want your feedback. But since we can’t all get together for coffee and donuts — as cool as that would be — I am going to try something else.

Quite simply, I want you to choose the next Gazette cooking columnist.

So, here’s how it will work. It will be kind of like an “Iron Chef” contest, only in print.

We will begin with five columnists. Beginning today and then every week, I will give our candidates a single food item. Their task will be to take that item and provide a column. Their column can be recipes they’ve found or it could be dishes they’ve created. Maybe it will be several recipes; maybe just one. Maybe, it won’t be a recipe at all, but some information about the chosen ingredient. The only rules will be that the column will be less than 450 words and will include — in some way — the item.

We will begin every Wednesday, starting this Wednesday (July 23), with five columnists. For one week, readers can vote online for their favorite Gazette cooking columnist.

Each week, we will publish the online results from the week, along with the columnists. We will eliminate the lowest vote-getter from that week.

Eventually, we’ll arrive at one remaining cooking columnist; in other words, the top vote-getter. That person will be given the columnist slot and will have big bread pans to fill taking over from Joyce.

I hope you will enjoy this approach as we select our next food columnist. Regardless of who becomes the next Gazette food columnist, I also want to thank the participants. It’s one thing to volunteer to be the next columnist. It’s quite another to be asked for up to five columns in an uncertain voter-picked contest.

So, let’s begin: The first ingredient for our columnists is watermelon.

Now, did I hear something about doughnuts?

Copyright 2014 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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