Valerie Phillips: A decade of deliciousness comes to an end

Published: Tuesday, Jan. 4 2011 4:00 p.m. MST

And speaking of contests, I've enjoyed criss-crossing the state to donate whatever judging expertise people assume I have. It was a great way to connect with readers, and nearly always yielded new story ideas. There were numerous chef show-downs and throw-downs, the Dutch Oven World Championships, the Scandinavian Bread Contest in Ephraim, Build A Better Burger in Tooele, the Interior Design Association's Edible Chair Contest (a seat you can eat!), Riverview Junior High's annual Dutch oven cook-off, Rhodes Bake-n-Serv Recipe Contest, Utah Beef cook-off, the Governor's Pie Contest with Jon Huntsman Jr., Little Miss Cherry Days in North Ogden, a Hardee's Biscuit Contest with Karl Malone and his mother, Miss Shirley; the International Chocolate Salon and even the 4-H Green Food Contest.

Sadly, my last charity judging event was a dessert contest held at LaCaille Restaurant, just a few weeks before the untimely deaths of owners Steve and Lisa Runolfson. My heart goes out to their family and hard-working staff.

Some people ask about the most unusual thing I've tasted. It was camel's milk, squirted into my mouth straight from the camel, by a bedouin in Saudi Arabia. You can't get much closer to nature than that.

Through it all, I can't think of a minute when I was ever bored in this job.

So why am I waxing nostalgic?

Well, you're probably aware that the Deseret News has undergone some changes. One of them concerns the Food section. I'll continue writing this column, and occasional stories through a new system of freelance writers called Deseret Connect. But, I won't be part of the Deseret News staff. (So, don't try to call me to look up those lost recipes. I won't be there.)

I'm grateful to former Features editor Chris Hicks, who gave me this opportunity. He used to say I was the best hire he ever made — and then joke that I was the ONLY hire he ever made.

Many people can't say they've ever had a job they even liked, much less loved, and for 10 years. That's pretty good.

I'll enjoy waking up on a stormy winter morning to realize I don't have to commute through the icy roads. And since I've put on 40 pounds during my tenure as a food editor, I'm planning to spend more time at the gym and less sitting in front of a computer. But, I'll still be spending a lot of time in the kitchen. I don't want to forget all that I've learned through these years.

So, let's keep on cooking!

e-mail: vphillips@desnews.com