Ronna Farley just won $250 in the Auntie Anne’s Baking Kit Recipe Challenge.
She was a finalist in the 16th annual National Cornbread Cook-Off.
And she was a finalist in the kosher cooking brand Manischewitz Cook-Off.
To dub Farley, 58, of Rockville, an avid cook would perhaps be an understatement.
“A lot of the time, I’ll put in an idea from this place and some from that place and put it all together,” Farley said of creating recipes for contests.
Farley enters between three and five cooking or baking contests per week — all submitted recipes are her own creation. Some come to her in a snap, she said, and others take some time. Her refrigerator always has a note or two on the front with a few ideas written down.
And although she doesn’t win every time, she has her share of success. Farley finds the competitions on websites such as contestcooking.com and contestcook.com. Some contests have requirements such as using a certain brand of flour or a specific type of baking sheet.
At age 20, Farley made it into the Pillsbury Bake-Off competition, a highly competitive baking contest. Tens of thousands of people enter, and one walks away with the $1 million first-place prize. And in 2006, Farley won her category, Simple Snacks, in the cook-off. She took home $10,000 and a new stove for her recipe for choco-peanut butter cups.
Most recently, Farley won $250 after receiving the most “likes” and comments on Auntie Anne’s Facebook page, said Amanda Marker, an account executive representing Auntie Anne’s, a national pretzel company. The company posted the finalists’ recipes online; Farley received 249 votes to win the fan favorite.
Farley works at the checkout counter at a Giant Food store in Aspen Hill. She has held the position for 29 years. Her customers often check in on how she fares in competitions.
“My mom’s always been a good cook for ... ever,” said Jennifer Garancheski, Farley’s daughter. “My mom would always come up with something new, so it was kind of fun.”
Farley does not have any professional training as a cook.
Garancheski remembers Farley created a new cookie at Christmas every year, as well as baking longtime favorites. Dinner, too, always was good.
Choco-peanut butter cups, the recipe created for a Pillsbury competition, is a family favorite.
“The first time I tasted them I almost fell on the floor,” Farley said. “I thought, ‘Oh my gosh! I came up with that?!’’’
Participating in cooking competitions is an excellent hobby for Farley, Garancheski said.
“It’s something she has a lot of fun with,” Garancheski said. “She really dedicates a lot of time to it. She keeps sticking to it and that’s one thing I love about my mom.”