Sandi Klingler has a wall full of blue ribbons from the South Alabama State Fair at her farmhouse in Montgomery County’s Fitzpatrick community, but none are more special than the one she earned for her Black-Bottom Pecan Pie back in 1992 in the fair’s Crisco pie-baking contest.
That was her first recipe contest, and it’s what got her hooked. Since then, she and her fantastic recipes have won a ton of state and national cooking contests, and the wins just keep coming. In fact, on a recent day at the second home that she, husband Bill and daughters McLaurin and Mary Ashton have in Auburn, she’d just gotten a call from Gold Kist about her entry in this year’s chicken-cooking contest.
“It’s unusual that they would take the time to call and clarify something in an entry,” Sandi says. “That tells me it’s at least got a chance.”
The prizes she has won through the past dozen years aren’t small change. She’s garnered thousands of dollars in cash, a couple of top-of-the-line ranges, trips to New York City, cookware-the list goes on. And she’s won in everything from the Whirlpool cake contest, judged by Gale Gand of Food Network’s “Sweet Dreams,” to, well, to the national Spam cookoff.
Every winning recipe is an original. Sandi says she comes up with a basic idea, then tweaks the recipe until she and her family judge it worthy of contending.
In her life before marriage, Sandi was a flight attendant, as was Bill, and she attributes much of her culinary success to that.
“I had the opportunity to travel all over the world and experience the flavors of so many places, and I find that I draw on that a great deal,” she says.
The Klinglers wound up in Montgomery County in the early 1990s after times got tough in the airline industry. They came to run the Fitzpatrick farm that Bill’s father, a Montgomery physician, had bought years before. Bill raises cattle and pecans-the latter being an ingredient in many of Sandi’s dishes, including her award-winning Big Fat Bumpy Life Cake.
Enjoy these winning recipes from Sandi. Then look for Sandi Klingler, Part II, in next month’s “Country Kitchen.”