"The experience level, creativity and craftsmanship of this year's winners are at the highest level I've seen since we started this competition five years ago," said Larry Blagg, senior vice president of marketing for CRMB. "Besides recognizing some of the top bakers in the industry, participation in the finals is done in such a manner as to create a sense of camaraderie among the contestants – they exchange techniques and best practices with one another."In addition to winning industry honors and national recognition, the winners will receive a tour of California, including the Culinary Institute of America in St. Helena and the San Joaquin Valley, home of more than 3,000 raisin growers. More than 100 professional and student bakers submitted original formulas to the competition. Finalists were determined by a review of submitted written applications and photographs. During the competition, each contestant made their products in the AIB kitchens, while judges observed technique, formulations, efficiency and professionalism. Finalists then presented their creations to the panel of judges, who inquired about their formulas, production techniques, as well as the retail or commercial viability of their products. The judging panel was a respected group of experienced professionals in the baking industry, including:
- Theresa Cogswell, Chief Judge and President of BakerCogs, Inc., Olathe, Kan.
- Ciril Hitz, Department Chairman for Baking & Pastry at Johnson & Wales University, Providence, R.I.
- Klaus Tenbergen, Certified Master Baker and Professor of Culinology, California State University, Fresno
- Dominique Homo, Bakery Consultant, Quebec, Canada
- Dan Malovany, Editor of Baking & Snack, Schaumburg, Ill.
- Mary Molt, Ph.D., R.D., L.D., Assistant Director of Housing and Dining Services and Assistant Professor of Hospitality Management and Dietetics, Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kan.