There are blue ribbon bakers and then there's competitive baker Roy Berrum of Crystal.
"When you go into the fair, you look at everybody else's entry and see who has won what. Then, you start planning your strategy right away for next year," said Berrum.
Berrum says he has always been competitive. He learned how to cook and bake for his family at a young age and competed in various clubs and organizations in high school. He decided to start baking competitively as a hobby after sobering up from a battle with alcohol.
"After I sobered up in 2000, I started thinking about competition because I've always been cooking and baking my entire life," said Berrum, who entered the Minnesota State Fair for the first time in 2004. "It takes years of entering and winning and losing to figure out what they are looking for. I'm still learning."
Each year, Berrum practices and perfects 25 different entries for the fair, which is the maximum allowed. He sometimes practices recipes at the Hennepin County Fair.
"If I didn't do good at the County Fair, I'm not going to enter it in the State Fair."
This year, Berrum has high hopes for a new recipe called "White Chocolate Chip Cranberry Walnut Cookie" in the drop cookie category.
"It's just to die for," said Berrum.
Perfecting recipes on the "Northwoods Cooking Show"
Roy Berrum has shared this cookie recipe before on his public access show, the Northwoods Cooking Show. Berrum has taped, edited and hosted the show for more than three years on Northwest Community Television. He currently submits the show to eight other access stations nationwide.
In the show, Berrum cooks and bakes in his kitchen with his black lab named Miss Callie. He also shares gardening tips. Every year, Berrum always talks about his state fair cooking and has even showcased his collection of ribbons on it.
450 ribbons and counting
Berrum has all of his ribbons framed. Some have tape to remind him of the product that won the ribbon, but two ribbons definitely stick out in his mind.
"The purple one there, that was for my coffeecake. That was the year I beat Marjorie Johnson and I've done it twice," said Berrum with a smile. "That's what everybody's goal is--to beat Marjorie Johnson."
Berrum is talking about the famed state fair baker from Robbinsdale who has won accolades and spots on national television shows for her baking expertise and witty remarks. Berrum says the challenge to beat Marjorie is good-natured fun.
"She sets the standard because she's so good," said Berrum. "That's what you strive for. So, you can put a feather in your hat and say I beat Marjorie Johnson, so I'm a good baker."
Taste testing only
Out of all of the delicious goodies Roy Berrum bakes to practice and to compete, he can only have a bite or two of each one.
"You always have extra food at home so you are giving it away to your friends and neighbors," said Berrum. "I'm diabetic, so I can't eat all of my treats...which is kinda hard."
Baking isn't the only category Berrum enters either. He enters the maximum number of canned goods he can, meaning along with all of those baked goods, Berrum hauls 40 jars of jellies, jams, and relishes to the Minnesota State Fair every year too.
Shannon Slatton, reporting
Tuesday, August 07, 2012