The east lawn, small kids Jell-O battle. | Photo by Nicole Kunze

Last Saturday, July 22, while kids of all ages were out on the grass near the Rose Garden at Ashton Gardens having hourly Jell-O fights, some very talented Utah cooks were in the Garden Room serving up Utah classics, including Jell-O, to judges in the Utah Foods Cook-Off.

The Garden Room at Ashton Gardens was lined with tables where food entries were displayed. On one side of the room were the funeral potatoes and Dutch oven dishes, and on the other side were Jell-O and fry sauce entries. Allan and Michaela Booth from American Fork have been competing at the Utah Foods Cook-Off for three years. They had a dish in every category and each dish had a “theme” with accessories, creative plating, and great tasting options. “The first year we came, Michaela was the only one with a creative presentation – everyone else was using paper plates. This year everyone has really upped their game!” said Allan Booth. The Booths took home second prize for their fry sauce and Dutch oven entries, and first place in the funeral potatoes category.

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The surprise first place winner in the fry sauce category was the Trellis Café, the restaurant right in Ashton Gardens. The chefs at Trellis Café have often said their fry sauce is the best, so they have bragging rights now. Fry sauce in Utah started in the 1940s when Don Carlos Edwards started serving it in his Artic Circle restaurants. Since then, Utah has become known for having fry sauce alongside ketchup in most of its restaurants. Some chains have created fry sauces for their Utah locations just to compete!

The category with the most entries in the cook-off was Jell-O. The beautiful dishes tasted as great as they looked. Sierra Evans of Payson made a mouth-watering Watermelon Rice Krispie Treat made with watermelon Jell-O and cut into the shape of a watermelon wedge. Her creativity got her a third place ribbon. A classic peach layered Jell-O made by Malina Welcker ended up taking first place.

The Best of Show and first place winner for the Dutch oven category was Coco Harward with her bread. “It’s hard to do bread in a Dutch oven,” said one of the judges. “This bread had a perfect crust and was so light and airy on the inside. It was truly amazing.” The third place winner in Dutch oven was called “Squirrel Soup” and had a very creative presentation.

Unlike the delicious Jell-O dishes in the Utah Foods Cook-Off, the Jell-O in the baby pools on the lawn near the Rose Garden was not for eating – it was made for throwing. Participants made a wide circle around the Jell-O pools and waited for the signal to go in and start throwing it around. Some people really went for it, while other kids couldn’t understand why it was fun to get Jell-O all over them. “It was squishy, like a fur ball,” one little boy explained when he was asked how the Jell-O felt. Kids could take a break from the battle and go down the bouncy house slides or run through the sprinklers to get the rainbow of Jell-O rinsed off their bodies. Jigglefest really delivered a unique summer activity to celebrate Utah!

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