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Saturday, February 25, 2017

Road to Johnsonville’s The Sausage Dome: The Story Begins


Who knew that an email sitting in my inbox could be one of the most amazing things that has ever happened to me. The title of the email: “Casting Call for the Greatest Game Day Recipe”. I am a big fan of Johnsonville and like any fan, I subscribe to their newsletter to find out about new products that are coming out and recipes. My whole foodie career is the one spent behind the scenes – started by working in restaurants learning about food and cooking techniques, expanding my foodie knowledge with the written word to let the world know about new restaurants and food products, developing recipes for some of my favorite stores and products, and becoming a professional food judge to analyze food entries at food competitions across the country. I have competed in smaller recipe competitions in which your family, friends, and fans get to vote. It is taxing on everyone and the fun seems to end right when it starts. But there was something in this Johnsonville email that just made me say to myself, “Chelsea, you can do this!”


The specs were that your recipe had to have a Big Game taste and utilize Johnsonville sausage. It could be any recipe that I wanted it to be, but since there was a big graphic logo for “The Sausage Dome”, I figured it needed to be themed for a game day party. I took into consideration where you might make the recipe. If you are home, you have an oven, range, other cooking elements. If you are tailgating, you might have a grill and maybe a propane cooktop for making dishes like chili or soup. I wanted to make sure it was versatile and easy to make. And I also knew that the judges would be workers from Johnsonville and wanted to appease their palate. I only had 11 days until the submission deadline which was also right before the start of World Food Championships. I needed to get the recipe finalized and then shoot a short video introducing myself and my sausage dish. Since the hubby and I have been working on a YouTube channel for my OC Food Diva blog, he could edit down the introduction and cook to a minute-long snippet. It is almost like we trained for it! Depending on the day, I can get very nervous on camera, so it did take a while to get my intro out in one swoop. I uploaded my submission and flew to Orange Beach, AL for the World Food Championships the next morning.

On the last day of the World Food Championships, I finished up some writing assignments in the hotel and checked my email. I see an email titled, “Welcome to the Sausage Dome!” At first, I was a little nervous to open the email, but told myself, “It says “welcome” so it has to be good news.” And it was! I was picked as one of the competitors for Johnsonville’s The Sausage Dome food competition reality series. I was bouncing around the room like a bunny rabbit. I needed to calm down since I still had to be professional for a media interview at a restaurant within the hour. After my World Food Championships trip, I would have a couple of weeks to unwind before flying out for the taping of Johnsonville’s The Sausage Dome.

On a cold December morning (at least for Southern California), I headed up to Los Angeles International Airport to catch a flight to Milwaukee, WI with a short stop in Dallas along the way. I arrived at General Mitchell International Airport in the late afternoon. As the plane glided its way to the terminal, snow was falling big time. It was my second time landing at an airport with snow but it still seemed magical to me! The terminal was warm so I didn’t think much about putting my jacket on. I got my luggage and proceeded outside to wait for my ride. OMG! I love it when it is cold, but it was freezing! Keep in mind, I live in Southern California and originally from Hawaii. I was literally freezing my òkole off!!! I am so glad that my mom nagged me about bringing Papa Dave’s heavy jacket. Mahalo, Mama! Along with it being my first time seeing a snow plow going through an airport, this was also my first time in Wisconsin!

We had a long car ride to Sheboygan, WI and got to know one of my competitors. His name is Mason Partak, a 13-year old cooking prodigy. He started baking with his mom when he was two years old. No stranger to reality food competitions, Mason is a Season 1 Food Network’s Chopped Junior Champion! I was excited to see what he was going to make for The Sausage Dome. But just meeting him indicated that there would be some fierce competition ahead. He was clearly a natural! Now, I could feel my nerves kick in. I was getting super nervous!!!

The competitors received amazing accommodations at the Blue Harbor Resort and Conference Center. I went up to the room to drop off my bags and it was time to for dinner! Stay tuned for more about the Blue Harbor Resort and the On The Rocks Bar & Grill.

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