The 100 finalists have just finished cooking and submitted their recipes to the judges, who are sequestered away in a room carefully guarded by security. I spent four hours walking among them watching their techniques and asking questions. Linda Bibbo has attracted lots of attention from the Food Network and others who researched the recipes before they came to Dallas. She has the same kind of GE oven at home that was provided in her mini-kitchen here in Dallas and even bought the same cookware used by the Bake-Off. It's obvious she's tested her recipe many times. She was in South Carolina with her daughter when the Bake-Off cook book came out and was stunned when her husband told her the Caramel Latte Crunch Cups she entered were not only on the cover, but got a centerfold spread as well.
Several finalists have been here before and the Bake-Off is a family affair for a West Virginia family. Sherry Smith (Banana-filled Caramel Chocolate Crepes)is competing against her son-in-law Will Sperry (Chicken-Asiago-Spinach Quiche)this year. In 1982 Sherry's daughter Janelle was the youngest ever finalist at age 10. Janelle was a finalist again in 2006 and Will was a finalist in 2004. They live within 3 miles of each other in Bunker Hill, W. Va. and taste tested each others entries. It's like Will says: "It's just not that hard becoming a finalist, and once you're here you have one in a hundred chances of becoming a millionaire. It's definitely worth making the effort."