Biscuit personality

Fast food is all about consistency. People want to know that they’ll get the same food at a drive-through in Rochester as they will at one in Raleigh. So, I was intrigued by the seeming contradiction of being asked to judge the regional finals of a biscuit contest for McDonald’s in Cary, N.C. Bakers at each store have a list of rules to follow and everyone has the same ingredients – not much of a contest, I thought.

The biggest challenge was sheer number – there were 12 entries. Even taking just a bite of each would mean eating the equivalent of three or four entire biscuits. My fellow judge, Cary Mayor Harold Weinbrecht, boasted that he had gone for a run in preparation for the marathon. I, in contrast, had merely foregone any bread at lunch and walked briskly to my car.

The mayor and I were handed a detailed score sheet. We had little metal rulers to see if the biscuits hit the requisite 1 1/2 inches in height. We were told to check the brownness of the tops and the whiteness of the sides, the amount of pebbly texture on the tops and the fluffiness of the centers. Can a good biscuit be scientifically quantified? They were trying.

I was surprised – even with all the rules and being baked in the same McDonald’s kitchen, each baker’s biscuit was a little different. Even in the standardized fast-food world, it makes a difference whose hands mold the biscuits.

The regional winning bakers were Angelica Hernandez from the Falls of the Neuse Road store, Elena Salgado from the South Street store, Gustavo Sanchez from the Kildaire Farms Road store and Mariana Morales from the Garner store. They will compete next week in the state finals.