Message to our friends
Jo Hastings Southern Living Cookoff Award

Jo & I spent a wonderful 4 days at the Gaylord Opryland Resort. I have never seen such a huge resort complex. They employ over 2000 employees and have over 2000 rooms. The resort is mostly under dooms and the fauna and rock formations and waterfall treatments are unbelievable. It was truly amassing.
We have never been to a Cookoff Contest so everything was new to us. We never imagined that to a lot of people this is their career, I.e. entering cookoff contests for the money and prizes. Most of the other finalists were "Pros" but nonetheless took Jo under their wings and gave her some tips that were appreciated. Southern Living treated their Finalists like royalty. Everything was done first class and they spared no expense. Not only was the trip and hotel accommodations provided but everything else was also. The meals were exclusive, private and most had some form of entertainment. They even gave the finalists spending money which came in handy for me because there was a huge, I mean huge outlet mall within walking distance to the resort that had a 23 movie Movie Plex and a glow in the dark Putt Putt course in addition to the stores, some of which were as big as a small mall themselves.
Enough on the small stuff. As soon as Jo arrived she had to cook her Flan so that it could cool for Friday's judging. While the rest of us were feasting and dancing, Jo was cooking her Flan under the ever watchful eyes of Southern Living's security.
Jo's Category, Signature Desserts, was judged first at 8:30 Friday am. By the end of the day all the judging was complete and final but no one other than the judges knew the winners.
Saturday was the TV staged Contest with Al Roker hosting. The staging facility at the resort was sold out and I was as nervous as I've ever been. Each categories finalists (3 in each category) were brought on stage and actually had to prepare and explain their recipe to Al and the audience. After all the had finished Al then announced the category winner. Jo's category, which was judged first, was chosen to be on stage LAST. She and I had to wait close to 2 1/2 hours for her time to come. Jo was unbelievable on stage. She reminded me of Lucille Ball, funny, crazy but adoring to all.
When Al Roker announced her name I was in shock. She actually WON her category. She became one of the 5 finalist to compete for the $100,000 Grand prize. I knew at this point Jo would be selected to win the Grand prize but it went to the local Tennessee finalist. I'm thinking about suing but probably won't. I'll have to get over it. It's still amassing to me the Jo's recipe was selected out of the 35,000 sent in and she won her category. I'm so proud of her especially after I found out the real odds of her accomplishing this on her first contest.
We are very proud and happy at Jo's success.

 David Hastings


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