Mar 25, 2013 • By

Ever wonder who runs the Pillsbury Bake-Off?

The Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest is an institution that’s been around for decades. But have you ever wondered who runs the event and all the fun and food that go along with it?

Hint: It’s not the Doughboy!

Shera Balgobin is the latest Pillsbury Bake-Off manager — taking over for long-time manager Onju Sturlaugson — and she’s ready to reinvent the contest that America knows and loves just like she reinvented herself.

Shera went to college at Northwestern University and got her degree in broadcast journalism.

“I did my first story (as a journalism intern) at a waffle house in Kentucky,” she said. “It’s amazing to have gone from the waffle house – it was a waffle eating contest – to a different kind of cooking contest working on the Bake-Off. Who knew that the waffle eating championship would ultimately give me some insight into the nation’s largest cooking competition!”

In addition to her journalism internship, Shera also had an internship at General Mills where she worked with several different brands and programs. Ultimately, she decided that her skills could be put to good use here.

“I loved the environment here and loved the collaboration. I was still able to take those communications skills and translate them into something really meaningful,” she said.

So, the waffle eating contests were out and working in promotions and public relations with Box Tops for Education, Pink Together and Cheerios were in. And after five years of in-depth experience, she’s now managing the venerable Pillsbury Bake-Off as the 46th contest is underway.

Shera works with a large team of dedicated and organized people to manage the entire Bake-Off process from kitchens to contest operations to photography and the website. There’s even a minute-by-minute operations plan to make sure not a thing is forgotten.

And while she loves every aspect of her job, Shera’s favorite part of the Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest is the warm moment when the winner is announced.

“Where else do you get to give away $1 million?! I get to meet 100 people and see exactly how they use our product. These are everyday people making dishes for their families. To see their faces light up when their name is announced … it’s a one-of-a-kind moment.”

This year’s contest still has the $1 million prize, still has a panel of independent judges and still has 100 finalists that have to make that terrifying walk to the judges’ table with their dishes, but there are lots of exciting changes too.

What’s new for the 46th Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest?

Shera and team know that life moves quickly and not everyone has the time to spend an hour preparing dinner, so to encourage simpler, original recipes, submissions are required to include no more than seven ingredients (including two different eligible ingredients) and take 30 minutes or fewer to prepare (not including baking/cooling time).

There are three categories, in three stages of entries and voting.

Interested in submitting an entry?

  • Amazing Doable Dinners (Recipe submission period has closed)
  • Simple Sweets and Starters: (Recipe submissions, April 4 – May 9, 2013)
  • Quick Rise and Shine Breakfasts: (Recipe submissions – July 4 – August 8, 2013)

The public will vote for their favorites in each category, in order to choose the 100 finalists. “What is the next Peanut Butter Blossom cookie? What is the next French Silk Pie? We’re allowing America to vote,” says Shera.

The public voting periods for the three categories are:

  • Amazing Doable Dinners: Through March 28, 2013
  • Simple Sweets and Starters: June 13-27, 2013
  • Quick Rise and Shine Breakfasts: September 12-26, 2013

The 100 finalists will then compete in the Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest finals set for November 10 to 12 in Las Vegas – it’s the first time the contest has been held there.

And Shera will of course be on the Bake-Off floor again, and behind-the-scenes, meeting all the finalists and making sure every detail of the Bake-Off is under control and it all goes according to plan.

It may be a job she certainly never had a plan for, as she mapped out a career in broadcast journalism, but she says the tradition of the Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest makes it a job she’s definitely honored to have.