California Raisin Marketing Board Announces Winners of America's Best Raisin Bread Contest

Press Contact:

Larry Blagg, Senior VP of Marketing
California Raisin Marketing Board
(559) 248-0287

California Raisin Marketing Board Announces Winners of America’s Best Raisin Bread Contest

– Artisan and Commercial Bakers Vie for Top Honors in Competition Debut –

Fresno, Calif., October 16, 2008 – The California Raisin Marketing Board is pleased to announce the winners of its inaugural “America’s Best Raisin Bread Contest” hosted at the American Institute of Baking (AIB) in Manhattan, Kan., on October 10-11. The competition included a total of 20 finalists competing in artisan and commercial categories.

Co-grand prize winners in the artisan category include Luminita Cirstea, Bennison’s Bakery, Evanston, Ill., for her Raisin Rye Bread and Lionel Vatinet, LaFarm Bakery, Raleigh, N.C., for his Raisin Vanilla Bean Torsade. Taking top honors in the commercial category was Patrick Finney, Roman Meal Bread, Seattle, Wash., for his Salsa Latina Raisin Bread.

“Each of the bakers in the competition represented superior talent in terms of quality, baking innovation and commercial value,” said Larry Blagg, senior vice president of marketing, California Raisin Marketing Board. “The purpose of the contest was to discover the best California Raisin Breads in North America and to recognize outstanding bakers and recipes that are relevant in today’s real-world baking industry — judging by the taste and appeal of the winning entries — it was mission accomplished.”

Additional prize winners in the artisan category, include:

  • Judges prize: Larry Lobe, Dawn Foods, Phoenix, Ariz., California Raisin Harvest Bread
  • Ideas prize: Co-winners Anthony Sapia, Gemelli Bakers, State College, Pa., Breakfast in BrEaD and Michael Vande Walle, Uncle Mike’s Bakery Shoppe, Green Bay, Wis., Cinnamon Raisin Walnut Bread

Additional prize winners in the commercial category, include:

  • Judges prize: Co-winners Henk Balk, Utopia Bakery, San Luis Obispo, Calif., Dutch Mueslibread “Musliknar,” and Blake Gunter, Flowers Foods, Atlanta, Ga., Cinnamon Raisin Swirl Bread
  • Ideas Prize: Co-winners Eric Spelger, Caravan Ingredients, Kansas City, Mo., Raisin Twirled Cinnamon Bread and Brian Carson, Alpha Baking, Chicago, Ultimate Orange Raisin Bread

All 20 finalists received medals with the top-ten winners also receiving engraved plaques and a trip to California in 2009 to tour California Raisin country, wine regions and the San Francisco Bay Area.

Distinguished Judges Select Top Bakers, Recipes

The contestants were evaluated for their finished product’s appearance, taste, texture and value to consumers. Bakers also received scores for creativity, use of ingredients, and for their skill related to efficiency and professionalism while preparing their breads. Each baker was required to prepare and present their raisin bread to a panel of judges.

The artisan judges included Ciril Hitz, Department Chairman for Baking & Pastry at Johnson & Wales University, Providence, R.I., Klaus Tenbergen, Certified Master Baker and Professor of Culinology, California State University, Fresno and Dominique Homo, President of Ecole du Pain, Montreal, Canada

Commercial judges included Theresa Cogswell, President of Bakerscog, Inc., Olathe, Kan., David Guilfoyle, President of Half Baked Consultants, Inc., Abilene, Kan., and Kirk O’Donnell, Director of Education, at the AIB.

During the competition, Cogswell, representing the commercial baking judges, said products should be reflective of the consumer trends in the U.S. to eat healthier breads with whole grain flours, as well as to contain ingredients that help to simplify labels as being more natural. She noted that by having the artisan and commercial bakers work side by side, both groups could learn from each other. She further stated that everyone walked away from this event with a greater respect for the skills of all those in the baking community.

Ciril Hitz, representing the artisan judges, commented that the artisan breads were expected to have a “wow factor” in delivering taste and visual appeal, as well as use of natural ingredients where possible. He also shared with the participants that the breads should not be show pieces for the contest, but rather should be created as if they would be a readily commercialized product reasonably made for consumers and foodservice customers alike.

“We want to thank our distinguished judges and each and every participant for making the first year of the America’s Best Raisin Bread Contest a resounding success,” said Blagg. “With the tremendous response and innovative recipes entered into the inaugural contest we are delighted to congratulate our winners and highlight the recipes that featured California Raisins in unique, delicious and interesting new ways.” Photos of winners are available for download at

About the California Raisin Marketing Board
A State Marketing Order in 1998 created the California Raisin Marketing Board and it is 100 percent grower funded. Its mission is to support and promote the increased use of California-grown raisins and sponsor crop production, nutrition and market research. For more information about the California Raisin Marketing Board and to browse delicious recipes, visit