Goodness, gracious, great cloves of garlic: Event organizers behind Gilroy’s internationally-renown foodie extravaganza have sweetened (or spiced?) the 1st, 2nd and 3rd-place prizes for the event’s signature competition.

The top chef who successfully woos judge’s taste buds during the 35th Annual Gilroy Garlic Festival’s infamous culinary gauntlet, the Great Garlic Cook-off, will take home a healthy sum of $5,000, according to a press release sent out today. 

Hello! That’s $4,000 more than what last year’s champion, Laureen Pittman of Riverside took home when her mouth-watering concoction – Crispy Pork Belly with Caramelized Onion and Fig Agrodolce and Creamy Polenta – nabbed top honors in July 2012.

In addition, this year’s 2nd place prize has been bumped from $750 to $2,500 and the 3rd place prize from $500 to $1,000.

Let the crusades of culinary creativity commence. The ante has been upped.

“We just wanted to spark some more interest and get a wider variety of amateur chefs,” said festival volunteer Renee Harrigan, who along with Ken Fry is co-chair of the recipe contest. “Other cook-off competitions that are happening now are really offering a little bit more (money).”

Harrigan hopes the fattened 1st place sum, which has been $1,000 for the 13 years, will coax new talent from the comfort of home kitchens and onto the cook-off stage, where hundreds of thousands of festival patrons will meander by or spectate from the grandstands. 

“We would like to see a wider variety of people that are actually entering,” she explained. “We do get some of the same people repeatedly and we’d love for it to be a much wider base.”

The Garlic Festival’s Board of Directors approved the change in January, according to Harrigan.

The festival is accepting recipe submissions for the amateur cooking competition through May 1. Eight finalists from the initial field of entries, which last year reached 200, will be selected to appear onstage July 27 at the Great Garlic Cook-off. Finalists will whip up their creation in front of a live audience and standby as judges savor and scrutinize the dishes to determine a winner. Original recipes must include a minimum of six cloves of fresh garlic or three teaspoons of chopped or minced garlic. The recipes must be prepared, plated and served to a panel of six judges in a time span of two hours.

The eight finalists will receive travel and lodging accommodations.

Entries can be submitted to: Gilroy Garlic Festival Cook-off, P.O. Box 2311, Gilroy, CA, 95021-2311 or via email to [email protected].

Submissions should be provided in recipe form and accompanied by a photograph of the final dish. Entries are limited to two recipes per person.

The 2013 Gilroy Garlic Festival will be held July 26-28 at Christmas Hill Park, located 35 miles south of San Jose along Highway 101.

More information on the Gilroy Garlic Festival and the Great Garlic Cook-off, including video highlights of last year’s competition, is available online.

Great Garlic Cook-Off rules, a list of the 34 past champions and the top three recipes from 2012 are available here.


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