This may sound lame and be a laughable bucket list item for some, but I have always wanted someone to ask me to judge something.

More specifically, since I consider myself a “foodie,” (I didn’t get this body by accident; I worked hard, never missing a meal) I’ve secretly always wanted to be a food critic, like the judges on Top Chef, and be asked to lend my taste buds and opinions.

Well, on Tuesday, I got the opportunity I have been dreaming about since I developed such an affinity toward food. The public relations guru for Cheddar’s asked me to be a judge for the Harker Heights Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen side dish recipe contest.

I could hardly contain my excitement when the words finally processed in my brain. I maintained my composure the best I could, and even with my heart racing, I managed to spit out an intelligent and nonchalant response, like I was a food judging pro.

I may have been professional over the phone, but I was jumping up and down in the office. I. Could. Not. Wait. My excitement level over the next few weeks intensified to the point where my husband was sick of me talking about it. Now he’s just sick of me talking about the experience and promenading around the house in the apron they gave us.

The weather on Tuesday may have been dreary, but I was amped up. A lifelong dream of mine was about to come to fruition. I obviously didn’t want the Cheddar’s big wigs to know how excited I was so I tried to play it cool, but I could not hide my Cheshire cat smile.

No matter what state we have traveled through, the Cheddar’s parking lot is always packed. Finally living within driving distance of one here, my husband and I dined at the local Cheddar’s and were kind of underwhelmed.

Maybe we ordered the wrong things, maybe it was an off-day for the chain, but nothing about our experience made us want to try it again, until now.

At the tasting, I was joined by our in-house celebrity taster, Clare, and several Cheddar’s officials. We were all given comment cards asking a variety of questions about the dishes appearance, serving size, overall taste and if it would be an item we would come back for.

We tasted a bacon macaroni and cheese, a corn pudding and a sweet potato casserole.

My overall pick was the sweet potato casserole. It tasted like I would be cheating on my dinner by ordering it since it had a nice sweetness and richness about it.

The officials will tally up the votes and notify the winner within a week or so.

The winning dish will be featured on the Harker Heights menu along with the winner’s name. A pretty cool opportunity, if you ask me.

Offering my opinions and insight was exhilarating. They actually cared about what I had to say. Even our staff photographer was impressed with the words coming out of my mouth. I was totally in my element and would judge another contest in a heartbeat.

Contact Vanessa Lynch at or 254-501-7567.

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