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The world of competitive cooking was thriving long before the first season of Top Chef aired. Local, district and state cooking contests can be found across the country for everything from pies to ribs. Think you're a good cook? Enter a competition near you and see if you've got what it takes. Or, just head down to the festival and taste some of the prize-winning eats.
National Cherry Festival: Cherry Pie Baking Contest
Traverse City, MI
Do you make a killer cherry pie? Bring your dish to the Heritage Day Old Fashioned Picnic and enter it in the competition; the deadline for entries is June 18. Or just tour a cherry orchard, take the kids to the petting zoo and sample the newest cherry products on the market.
Gilroy Garlic Festival Recipe Contest and Cook-Off
One of the more well-known cooking contests across the country, the Gilroy Garlic Festival attracts hundreds of amateur chefs hoping to be crowned the winner. Recipes start flowing in around December; after months of testing submissions, the eight finalists are invited to the festival to prepare their recipes in front of the crowds.
Jazz & Rib Fest
Music and barbecue go hand in hand, and this festival boasts plenty of "hot ribs and cool jazz." Check out work by local artists while award-winning cooks from across the globe (including as far away as Australia) compete for "Best Ribs" bragging rights.
Who has the best sandwich in Sandwich? Stop by the festival and vote for your favorite. While you're there, peruse the farmers' market for locally grown produce and lobsters, watch the dog parade, and pick up a souvenir at the arts and crafts fair.
Eden Corn Festival
The folks in upstate New York are taking advantage of their summer corn crop with a festival dedicated to the golden cobs. Whip up a batch of cornbread for the Cornbread Baking Contest, or start some soup simmering for the Corn Chowder Contest and see how your recipes stack up. Don't feel like cooking? Try stuffing your face at the corn eating contest, for both kids and adults.
Great American Seafood Cook-Off
New Orleans, LA
Upcoming and celebrity chefs from across the country battle it out to create the best-tasting seafood dish. The event raises awareness about the importance of cooking with domestic seafood and buying products from sustainable fisheries.
Pigs and Peaches BBQ Cook Off
Get into the action by entering the Backyard BBQ, Anything Butt or Peach Dessert Contest, or watch how the pros do it at the Kansas City Barbeque Society-sanctioned contest for the title of Georgia State Barbeque Champion. Live entertainment, local vendors and a kids' zone ensures fun times for the whole family.
If you live in the United States, chances are there's a chili competition near you. Cooks everywhere are passionate about what goes into their chili, and the International Chili Society (ICS) and the Chili Appreciation Society International, Inc. (CASI) are proof. These two organizations plan and promote chili competitions in nearly every state in the country. Check out their sites to find a cook-off near you.