Etobicoke’s Tracey Rigden turned a ‘hot mess’ of an experience in the Recipe to Riches kitchen into a ‘sweet success’ with her recipe for salt-kissed dulce de leche brownies.
The New Toronto law clerk competed against bakers from across the country to win the Food Network Canada reality cooking show’s Cookies and Squares competition – along with its $25,000 cash prize – in an episode that aired on Wednesday.
For Rigden, the whole Recipe to Riches experience was a challenge that put her totally outside her comfort zone – especially the batch-up challenge, where she had to supersize her recipe for 26 brownies into one that made 1,000 of her decadent delights.
“I nearly had a heart attack when I found out I had to make a thousand. And I felt my stomach drop when we were told we had to do it in three hours,” she exclaimed. “I normally take three hours just to make one little itty bitty batch of 26 brownies in my kitchen.”
Despite Rigden’s misgivings about her performance – and more than a little bit of burnt dulce de leche – the judges gave her rave reviews.
“I think the combination of salt and chocolate really adds a nice twist to a familiar brownie,” said judge Tony Chapman, founder and CEO of Capital C advertising agency.
That sentiment was echoed by Chapman’s fellow judge, Dana McCauley, the culinary director of Janes Family Foods: “Tracey, you’ve just hit on things everyone loves: you’ve got chocolate, salt, and dulce de leche.”
After tasting success in the batch-up round, Rigden then moved forward to the product launch challenge, where she had to host an event at downtown Toronto’s Atrium to introduce her product to the masses.
Playing off a motif of decadence, Rigden planned a 1940s glamour themed launch – complete with showgirls, fountains and tuxedoed and white-gloved servers dishing out her brownies on silver platters.
A naturally outgoing and bubbly personality, Rigden was in her element mingling with her potential customers – a fact that didn’t escape judge Chapman’s attention.
“What I really liked about your event was you,” he said. “You smiled, you laughed, you were gregarious. You should be very proud of how you ran your event.”
Not only was Rigden a hit with her audience, but so were her brownies. In the end, 96 per cent of the people who sampled them said they enjoyed them, 83 per cent said they’d buy them, and 96 per cent said they would recommend them.
Galen Weston, executive chairman of Loblaw Companies, agreed with those numbers, lauding Rigden’s recipe for its trendiness.
“It’s perfectly on trend as far as decadent desserts are concerned...” he said, shortly before announcing Rigden as the night’s winner. “Tracey, I don’t think we can deny Canadians your perfect President’s Choice product anymore.”
For Rigden, who was in tears upon learning of her triumph, it’s a toss up as to which of her prizes is most prized: the $25,000 cash reward or having her recipe made into a President’s Choice product.
“It’s still so crazy to me that my product is going to be on the shelves of all the President’s Choice grocery stores in the country. I can’t believe my face is going to be on a grocery store product – and I love the caricature that they did of me,” she said.
“This whole experience has been unbelievable. I can’t describe how it makes me feel. I’m very proud and humbled that I was able to do this.”
As for Rigden’s cash winnings, she said she’d like to set aside some of the money for her retirement, but she’s also going to have some fun Christmas shopping this year.
“I’m really looking forward to Christmas and being able to spoil my family,” she said. “I just want to be able to share it with the people that mean the most to me.”
Rigden’s recipe is now in the running for Recipe to Riches grand prize of $250,000.
Anyone wishing to meet Rigden and try her Salt-Kissed Dulce de Leche Brownie are invited to the Loblaw’s store at 380 The East Mall this Saturday, Nov. 3 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., when Rigden will be on hand to debut her product and meet with Recipe to Riches fans.
Rigden isn’t the only Etobian competing in this season of Recipe to Riches. Etobicoke’s Mary Rocto will give the judges a chance to sample her jerk chicken buns on the Nov. 14 episode.