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Winning Ways

Anna , you've just won a million dollars. So what's next?

Staff Writer
Austin 360
Anna Ginsberg stands in her recently remodeled kitchen with a batch of cookie dough for her giant peanut butter cookies, which will go to the Mills Elementary School Spring Festival Bake Sale. Anna remodeled her kitchen after winning $1 million in the Pillsbury Bake-Off. April 20, 2007.

After Anna Ginsberg was announced the million-dollar winner in the Pillsbury Bake-off last week, she quickly flew to New York City for a next-day appearance with Katie Couric on the "Today" show. But two days later, she was back home in the real world of a stay-at-home mom, washing clothes and cleaning house.

Good things are still happening for her. Among her mail awaiting at home was notification that she had won $500 in the Mix It Up With Betty Crocker Cookie Contest. While that check pales in comparison to the $1 million Pillsbury grand prize, to this 35-year-old cook who practices frugality, it is treasured.

"I can go blonder if I want without thinking about the cost," Ginsberg said of her big win.

Or — since her taste of fame in New York — she can order room service or take a Carey limo home from the airport without guilt, she added. Or get call-waiting or buy star fruit more often.

She and her husband, Todd, were heading last weekend to Toys "R" Us to buy a bouncing thing that 4-year-old daughter Emma had been eyeing.

Ginsberg thinks her upcoming purchases will be little ones rather than grand. Her prize is a million bucks, but it is not a lump sum; it is dispensed in $50,000 amounts over 20 years. And of course, that gets taxed as income up to a 35 percent maximum rate. She is not going wild.

There is no plan for a new house — she and her family love their Southwest Austin neighborhood — but she does want to remodel her kitchen. And because she also won $10,000 worth of GE stainless steel appliances as the Bake-Off champ, she has a head start on the remodel.

In the heat of the win, she mentioned a dream of a coffeehouse, where she could bake cookies every day, but that is probably not in the immediate future. Restaurants are demanding businesses.

She's thinking about writing a cookbook, or teaching kids' cooking classes (she's been cooking since she was a child) and traveling. Nothing is definite. "My head is still spinning."

First she is trying to catch up on 600 e-mails. And deal with media requests. She's been interviewed by reporters from New York to Miami, and there is discussion about an appearance on the "Ellen DeGeneres Show." She was scheduled to tape with Martha Stewart in New York, but was bumped. That was a disappointment. The rest has been fun.

"I got to sit on the couch with Katie Couric, talk and joke with her," said Ginsberg, trying to come back down to Earth in Austin over the weekend. "At the 'Today' show, they did my hair and make-up. I was going around New York all day with hair and make-up by the same person as Katie Couric!"

Ginsberg definitely plans to keep on cooking. She had barely unpacked when she got out the Bake-Off finalists cookbook to look at cookie recipes she wants to try. She loves to bake and, for a while, made cookies daily, blogging on the recipes with photos.

Ginsberg is genuine. Outgoing and not at all cocky, she says she goes to competitions to have a good time, never thinking she is going to win. When she was named the winner of the Bake-Off in Florida and whisked off to New York, she had to stop at Macy's for something to wear on the 'Today' show. She had not packed to be on national television or for cold weather. (With the help of a publicist and three Macy's clerks, she chose a Ralph Lauren skirt with flowers, solid dark blue shirt, navy shoes and stockings.)

She thinks she will keep competing. "I am genuinely disappointed that I cannot go to the next Bake-Off (grand-prize winners are ineligible), that I cannot do it again ever. . . . I wonder if I could be a Bake-Off groupie?"

She is working hard on recipes for the $100,000 Southern Living and $35,000 Cooking Light cook-offs, she says, but feels a little guilty doing so because she has just won such a big prize. Yet, she is challenged by the recipe creation process. "I'm passionate about it."

The secret, this University of Texas advertising graduate says, is that she thinks like an advertiser or marketer when she creates a recipe. She targets an audience — who would make it? — then comes up with a creative recipe that is easy, appealing, tastes right for the target and uses the contest sponsor's qualifying product.

"My friends are play-group moms or my gourmet group. I try to get somewhere in between."

Works for her.

Original publication Date: March 29, 2006

Among Anna Ginsberg's earnings in contests: