By Mike Linn
Jena Bilberry wasn’t going to let a frito pie win this year’s New Mexico 4-H cooking competition.
The Dora High School junior who had smelled but never tasted victory in seven previous years finally won approval of the judges’ stomachs on July 16 in Las Cruces. She edged 16 other competitors and earned a trip to Denver early next year for the national 4-H roundup.
Her winning menu featured dishes of chicken, fresh vegetables and cheeses, all wrapped in crescent rolls, according to officials at the Roosevelt County 4-H extension office.
“The dish was very good,” said Patrick Kitcher, the Roosevelt County 4-H extension agent. “The competition revolves around nutrition as well as presentation and Jena is very knowledgeable about what she’s doing. Her dish was very eye-appealing and tasted very good.”
Two years ago, Bilberry said she was somewhat upset when she lost the cooking competition to a girl who made a frito pie as her featured dish.
“Winning this year was worth it, but I’ve been entering these competitions for seven years — it’s time to retire,” Bilberry said.
Bilberry said the best part about cooking is eating the food. She said cooking is a hobby to pass the time, not something she truly loves.
The Rodgers native also earned a second-place finish in the 4-H public speaking competition, where she orated the benefits of extracurricular activities. A volleyball, track and basketball player for Dora High, Bilberry said competition helps her gain confidence and leadership skills.
Overall, the Roosevelt County 4-H state team members placed in five of the six state competitions they entered this year, Kitcher said.