Welcome, Devon Delaney and a Giveaway

by Barb, loving being back in Maine

Devon Delaney’s cozy, culinary mystery Expiration Date releases on April 24, (my anniversary!). I recently met Devon at the Kensington Cozy-con here in Portland and learned about her amazing success at a fascinating hobby–cooking contesting.

Devon is giving away a copy of Expiration Date to one lucky commenter below.

Take it away, Devon!

If someone had told me my life’s journey would lead me from teaching computer education and Lego Robotics to cooking contesting, then on to writing cozy murder mysteries I would have had a much easier time convincing my father the money he invested in my liberal arts college degree was money well spent. Admittedly, cooking contesting isn’t a degree offered in any schools I’m aware of, but the highly successful twenty years I’ve been involved in the hobby is an education in of itself.

Making the leap from competing in cook-off contests to authoring a cozy murder mystery series may not make sense to most, but to me it’s a perfect evolution of my beloved hobby. In the dictionary the definition of contest is battle, contend and compete. The cooking contests I compete in have taken me from coast to coast. At each venue I meet the most wonderful home cooks. But I never mistake my fellow competitor’s outward warmth as a weakness. Each wants to crush me and every other contestant to get that grand prize. Even though I have yet to encounter a murder at one of my cook-offs, my powers of observation have tuned in to a few salty scenarios when battles got heated. The notion of how far events could escalate occurred to me one day when a friend casually remarked, “I’d kill to be able to cook like you.” A series was born.

That being said, the main character in my series, Sherry, is a compilation of myself and other cooks I know. She is flawed. She finds herself in situations she doesn’t necessarily wish to be in. She makes the most out of the unusual talents she isn’t fully aware she possesses. I might have a more comedic, and probably inappropriate, approach to life’s serious moments than Sherry, but I have hopes she’ll loosen up as she realizes she can’t control every aspect of her life despite her efforts to do just that. Like me, she has her fingers in many pies. From canning her own produce to working at her family’s hooked rug store her day is a busy one, but her favorite pursuit remains battling in cook-offs showcasing her best recipe.

In the meantime, Sherry continues to cook and compete, flourishing with each victory. Her new and unintentional hobby as amateur sleuth lands her in some very precarious situations that only her experience in the contest kitchen could have prepared her for.

Devon’s Bio

I am a wife, mother of three, accomplished cooking contester and a recent empty nester. I taught computer education and Lego Robotics for over ten years prior to pursuing writing. Along the way I have been handsomely rewarded for my recipe innovation over the last twenty-plus years. Among the many prizes I have won are a full kitchen of major appliances, six-figure top cash prizes and four trips to Disney World. I have also won the grand prize in a national writing contest for my ‘foodie’ poem “Ode to Pork Passion.” Combining my beloved cooking contesting with my enthusiasm for writing was inevitable. My author website can be found at: www.devonpdelaney.com

Expiration Date, A Cook-Off Mystery

Sherry Frazzelle lives a busy life in her quaint coastal Connecticut town. Her passion is competitive cooking and she has the trophies to prove how serious she is when she cooks for a prize. When her prepared pork tenderloin dish is the last food a contest judge tastes before he expires, she must put aside her spatula long enough to clear her good name and find the killer before he strikes again. The deeper her involvement in the investigation, the higher the heat soars in the contest kitchen. Will the competition become so unsavory, she isn’t able to get herself off the chopping block?

Readers: Leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of Expiration Date. Did you know competitive cooking was a thing? (I mean aside from Top Chef and the Food Network.) Would you like to try it? Doesn’t the world of cooking contesting sound like ripe ground for a cozy mystery series? Or just say “hi” for a chance to win.

132 Thoughts

  1. I’m aware of competitive cooking just as I am aware of many things I wouldn’t be any good at, but I love the idea as a cozy series. Looking forward to learning more and to a good read!

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  2. Other than the Pillsbury bake-off,I had no idea that competitive cooking was a thing! I think I would be to nervous to do this! I would love to watch a competition though.
    This sounds like a wonderful series and congratulations on the book!

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  3. What a fascinating post this has been. Never thought of cooking in competition as a paying career. I can’t wait to read this new to me author & series.

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  4. Sounds like a book I’d like to taste if I can ever get caught up on the 12,473 emails and the 43 past-due ARCs (at least I’m keeping steady with the ARCs [I think]).

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  5. I think the longevity of the Pillsbury bake off and state fair rivalries for ribbons show there will always be competitive cooking! But some prizes are more about bragging rights than $.I have not tried it, but my cousins compete in BBQ contests in the Midwest. I look forward to reading this. Thanks!

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    1. You are right. I keep a scrapbook of my wins and I’m very proud of my accomplishments in the contest kitchen. I’ve never competed in a state fair. Those competition work a bit differently and requires a lengthier time commitment. So fun you know BBQ competitors!

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  6. Devon, welcome to the Wicked Cozys! Your series premise sounds delightful and I can’t wait to read the first book. Question: are all your contest recipes completely out of your foodie imagination, or do you take another recipe and tweak it until it’s yours? It was great to meet you in Portland and I hope we run into each other again soon.

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    1. So glad to be here! Regarding how I create recipes, I do a bit of both. I have created many from my imagination and I have tweaked a recipe I knew I could improve by putting the Devon touch on it! I usually start with an interesting ingredient, say chutney or black rice, and I got from there. Sky’s the limit on possibilities, but in competitions I’ve learned less is more so use ingredients that provide a punch of flavor to wow the judges.

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  7. Welcome to WCA! I love watching competitive cooking shows on The Food Network. Alas I’m more suited to Worst Cooks in America than Chopped or Beat Bobbie Flay. And great name for a protagonist.

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  8. I think it’s wonderful to take a career that a lot of people know nothing about and turn it into a mystery. Sounds interesting and I have only watched those cooking contests on TV…
    Marilyn ewatvess@yahoo.com

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    1. I felt I had lots to share concerning cooking competitions and the more I thought about them I was certain intrigue, suspicion and murder weren’t too farfetched if someone involved took things too seriously!

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    1. Definitely not a career, although my husband would be happy if he could retire on my winnings. Just a hobby I found I had a talent for. I always keep my amateur status, otherwise I’m not eligible for most contests.

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  9. I have heard of The Pilsbury Bake-Off, but other than that, I didn’t realize someone could make a living doing cooking contests. It is the the perfect setting for a Murder, though, because of the competitive nature of the contestants. I have had this book on my TBR list for a while — I can’t wait to read it!

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  10. See what I found at the library when I went looking for this book : The secret identity of Devon Delaney

    Author Barnholdt, Lauren. and:
    Devon Delaney should totally know better

    Author Barnholdt, Lauren.

    Not only does she write, but others write about her!!! 🙂

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    1. Writing the books was a bit of left turn from competing in cooking contests which I still love to do. Once I started lots of material flowed out. I did give it more humor and drama to spice things up!

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  11. I remember watching a documentary about a recent Pillsbury baking contest. I remember one of the contestants being a little disturbing in that, when she was asked what would happen if she didn’t win, her voice rose a couple of octives and said that she would be devastated and probably wouldn’t deal well with it at all. (spoiler- she didn’t win). Such drama over baked goods—of course food competitions would be perfect for a cozy mystery! If I don’t win the copy I’m definitely buying one.

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    1. There definitely are those who take it a little too seriously. It is a hobby but Pillsbury rewards you with $1M so that can make competitors edgy trying to get the flavor balance correct for the judges in hopes of cashing in!

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  12. I know cooking and baking competitions have been going on for decades but I don’t think I could handle the stress or the ingenuity of these. I greatly admire those who even attempt it. This sounds like a great new series!

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    1. Thank you! Yes, it’s a nerve racking, anxious and exhilarating time in the contest kitchen once the opening bell sounds to “don your apron”, but I love every minute of it and all the interesting real life characters I’ve encountered along the way.

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  13. I wasn’t aware that competitive cooking exsisted.. I enjoy watching cooking shows on TV, but reality sets in when I attempt to make something I see.. most end up as a epic fail, but hubby is great, he just smiles and eats it anyway 😂🙃

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    1. Think about trying to get dinner on the table in a designated , and always too short, amount of time. Add the unfamiliarity of a kitchen you’ve never set foot in and ingredients you hope match the ones you’ve practiced your recipe with, along with the hub-bub of interviews, TV cameras and a live audience and if that is at all your cup of tea – go for it!!!

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  14. Devon, what an exciting and adventurous life you have had and as they say “the best is yet to come”. 🙂

    Although I’ve never competed in a cooking competition, I share you love of cooking/baking. What fun it must be to not only share the bounty of your kitchen but to be recognized for your achievements through such wonderful prize winnings.

    “Expiration Date” sounds amazing and definitely right up my alley. It mixes everything I love – cozy mystery and the love of being in the kitchen. Absolutely LOVE the cover right down to the blue ribbon on the cookbook to the skull and crossbones on the oven mitt.

    Thank you for the opportunity to win a copy of your book!
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

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    1. You are too kind! I hope the best is yet to come for all of us, yes! I hope you enjoy my first effort and the next two books in the series as well. The cover is gorgeous, I agree! Thank you Kensington Publishing for that!

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  15. Competitive cooking sounds like a chef eat chef business. I have a hard enough time coming up with new ways to cook dinner meals to keep the family interested.

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    1. Agreed! I got in to competitive cooking on a whim when I saw an advertisement in the back of a magazine. The theme for the contest was “What delicious recipe can you create from bread slices.” I won with my “Orange Dusted French Toast Fingers with Maple Dipping Sauce.” $2K on my first try. Needless to say, I was hooked!

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  16. We do our own version of competitive cooking on our family vacation, WAFFLEOFF, I’ve won the past 3 years and have the ornaments and the ridiculous pictures in pajamas to prove it. That’s about the level of competition I can handle. Your book sounds great!! Welcome!!

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  17. I did not realize how big the arena of competitive cooking has become. My husband watches the cooking show with kids and I cry each time someone is sent home. I would never be so brave to do that!

    Thank you for sharing today!

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    1. I have cooked on television and it really elevates the stress level. In front of a live audience is a notch easier but you can still cut the tension with a knife when time comes for the winner announcement. I do watch those shows also. I find myself wondering if I could last round after round without a cold glass of chardonnay!

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  18. I didn’t know there was that much to competitive cooking but it sounds fascinating and I am looking forward to your book.

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    1. Thank you so much. Every competition is a bit unique, depending on the sponsor, venue, amount of finalists, etc. I Most recent won the National Mushroom festival cook-off in a fun festival outdoor atmosphere where I felt relaxed. The Pillsbury Bakeoff is an extravaganza of one hundred finalists and a garage of media roaming throughout the staged cooking arena. That can get overwhelming in a hurry, but I’ve managed to compete in it three times at Disneyworld.

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  19. Nope, I had no idea competitive cooking was a thing. I’ve heard of cooking contests before, but I always figured it was something people participated in maybe once a year just for the fun of it. Sounds like an interesting book premise! mbradeen@yahoo.com

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    1. Imagine how competition of any kind can bring out the best and worst of people and you have the makings of some murderous activity possibilities. I’ve taking cooking competition to the next level and I hope it’s entertaining!

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  20. I have heard of competitive food competitions & no I would not like to enter one. Time is crucial & I would most likely fly around like a lunatic & hurt myself or someone else. I love books with a cook/baker because I can find new ideas.

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  21. I hadn’t realized that competitive cooking was a real thing, and I’m really interested to learn more about it. I enjoy cooking and reading – especially cozy mysteries about cooking! Thanks so much for the giveaway and congratulations on the new series!

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    1. Competitive cooking has so many components that make it such an interesting hobby. Not only do the competitors create the drama but the audience, the organizers, the sponsors can all be part of the fun. Twenty years of competing have taught me nothing if I don’t enter each contest preparing to expect the unexpected. From missing ingredients to misfiring ovens, I’ve had to adjust to all sorts of mishaps. In the end, killing the competition is the goal. (Do I mean that literally? hmmm….)

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  22. Devon I love your name as much as Doward’s. I remember my mother talking about the Pillsbury Bake Off which was around before Food Network. Competitions are my cup of tea since when placed under pressure I crack. Thanks for the introduction to Devon and her book.

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    1. Thank you! Pillsbury started this whole thing for the most part. There have always been local bakeoffs etc., but Pillsbury took it to a massive national level. For just getting to the finals, you are awarded a trip to Disney, tons of merchandize (I have so many stuffed plush Doughboys I can’t even count them all) and an oven. Not bad! But your recipe has to beat out tens of thousands of entries to get to the finals. I got lucky three times and that’s the limit. It is the Super Bowl of cooking contests!

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  23. That is super interesting! I knew that competitive cooking was a thing, but I didn’t know it was so big. Your new series looks wonderful. Thank you so much for the chance to win!

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    1. I continue to be fascinated with the originality of submitted recipes I encounter from other competitors every time I compete. Just when you think every imaginable spin of chicken breasts has been done Sweet and Sour New England Chicken over Pumpkin Pancakes emerges and wins! Yes, I won a maple syrup contest with that recipe.

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  24. I’m so excited to read this book! I am blown away by the success of the author.

    I have a question for Devon, you seem to have a lot of creative ideas. When do your best ideas come to you?

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    1. So funny you should ask! My best ideas come when I’m on a long walk with my dog or, unfortunately just as I should be falling asleep. I email myself notes otherwise the lightbulb moment dims quickly!

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  25. Hey Devon! This sounds like an awesome series, especially when it’s comprised from two of your life’s passions! I went to culinary school for my first round of education, and ended up transferring into a film program–maybe one day I’ll be able to make ‘Expiration Date’ into a feature-length film or mini-series! I’m really looking forward to reading!

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    1. Thanks so much! Sign me up!!! I did have a crossover moment between the two passions when I won $5K in a culinary essay contest with my poem “Ode To Pork Passion.” Amazing what’s brewing in my brain sometimes.

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  26. Thanks! Sherry is a character I’ve become quite close with! I maybe wouldn’t want to compete against her in a cook-off, judging by the misadventures you have referred to, but reading about her sure is fun! She’s smart, creative, unsure of her capabilities and got her fingers in many pies.

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  27. Yes,I have heard and watched cooking contests on tv…My favourite is called “nailed it”,where regular people are shown a picture of something and they must recreate it . It’s funny …most are failures but that’s why it’s fun. I also love the “British baking show” I love to read and review books.thank you for the chance to find a new book and author to follow.

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    1. I am a big fan of some of the cooking competition shows, as long as they seem somewhat plausible. When my kids were tiny every night was a pressure packed competition to get dinner on the table during the 5-6 toddler witching hour. I’m sure a lot of people out there know that feeling of keeping the children happy as you are trying to prepare a fast meal with whatever lurks in the refrigerator.

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  28. It doesn’t surprise me to learn that competitive cooking is a thing, but I haven’t researched it much.

    This new series sounds wonderful! Count me in for the giveaway, please.

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    1. I hear you. I lose myself in the kitchen for some reason and my creative juices start flowing. At a cook-off when I see the competition next to me garnish their finished dish better than mine I take note and try to do a finer job next time. Funny what motivates people.

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    1. I hope you do and I hope you like my series. As I was writing it I would try and put myself in the reader’s shoes, thinking he or she may be somewhat familiar with cooking competitions but not know how it felt to be a cook in the contest kitchen On top of that, the introduction of a mystery to solve would be the beginning of a delightful read. In the end, after the first book was complete, I recognized I was still more comfortable as a long time cooking competitor than I was a first-time author but, as my bio points out, I love a challenge so I’m so excited for the future!

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  29. Congrats on the new career! You have an interesting life and I’m sure the cooking competition idea is a great background for mysteries! I’d love to read this book!!

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    1. Love that! I have made hot pepper jelly from the jalapeños I grow. I also make a nice cracker spread with a layer of goat cheese, a layer of pesto (homemade, of course) and a top layer of pepper jelly. It’s really fantastic!

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  30. The book sounds interesting.
    I can make the best pies in the world! I used to demonstrate Pasty Making for local Foods classes and high school Home Economics classes.
    I would enter a pie making contest. Sounds fun

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    1. Thanks! I’m a hit or miss baker! Too much measurement and precision. I admire you greatly! Main and side dishes are my specialty. My cooking style can best be summed up with the tagline: creative and innovative, with a nod to the classics. I only measure when I’m ready to type up my recipe creation.

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