Pills­bury Bake-Off, flour fam­ily share a rich his­tory

Post Tribune (Sunday) - - News - From The Farm

Through­out my 25plus years writ­ing about recipes, some of my fa­vorite kitchen sto­ries have come from writ­ing about the an­nual Pills­bury Bake-Off com­pe­ti­tion and our lo­cal con­tes­tants from North­west In­di­ana and the Chicago area.

In early 2017, I lamented that af­ter nearly 70 years, it seemed the Pills­bury Bake-Off was tak­ing a hia­tus; the pre­vi­ous con­test was in 2014. For­tu­nately, the con­test re­turned in 2018 with a new win­ner.

The 49th an­nual Pills­bury Bake-Off is ready to rise to new heights. The win­ning recipes from the assorted cat­e­gories will be an­nounced Jan. 8 at www.Pills­bury.com.

When launched in

1949, the Pills­bury BakeOff was hosted by ra­diotele­vi­sion per­son­al­ity Art Lin­klet­ter in the ball­room of the Wal­dorf As­to­ria Ho­tel in New York City. To­day, the Pills­bury brand is owned and op­er­ated by par­ent com­pany Gen­eral Mills, based in Min­neapo­lis, a city where the Pills­bury name has been hailed as roy­alty for more than a cen­tury.

C.A. Pills­bury and Co. was founded in 1872 by Charles A. Pills­bury and his un­cle, John Pills­bury. Charles’ son, John S. Pills­bury, built the South- ways Es­tate on Brack­ens Point in Min­netonka, Minn., in 1918, which he en­joyed with wife Eleanor as a sum­mer re­treat. By 1930, it be­came the per­ma­nent res­i­dence for the Pills­bury fam­ily. In Au­gust, the en­tire es­tate and build­ings were de­mol­ished to make way for a condo de­vel­op­ment, eras­ing a stately land­mark of Pills­bury fam­ily his­tory.

Orig­i­nally on the mar­ket for $54 mil­lion, then re­duced to $24 mil­lion and even­tu­ally sold for just un­der $8 mil­lion, the 13-acre es­tate had seven struc­tures in­clud­ing the main house, a care­taker’s cot­tage and green­house, garage, pool com­plex, smoke room and tea house. In­side the 32,461square-foot main house, there were nine bed­rooms, 16 bath­rooms, for­mal rooms such as a hearth room, sun room, li­brary, great room, con­ser­va­tory, bil­liards room, gym, play­room and large wine cel­lar. It had been owned by the Pills­bury fam­ily for 95 years.

When I in­ter­viewed Ge­orge Pills­bury — the son of John S. Pills­bury and his wife, Eleanor — and Ge­orge’s wife, Sally, I asked them about the fam­ily es­tate. They al­ways em­pha­sized the im­por­tance of phi­lan­thropy, re­mind­ing they would rather be re­mem­bered for their char­i­ta­ble causes in­stead of a fa­mous brand last name.

They also ex­plained that another of the fa­mous Pills­bury homes in Min­neapo­lis had been re­pur­posed and to­day re­mains ded­i­cated to help­ing the vis­ually im­paired.

In 1993, the orig­i­nal down­town Min­neapo­lis man­sion of Charles Pills­bury, built in 1912, be­came the head­quar­ters of BLIND Inc. to use as “a mod­ern train­ing cen­ter for the blind with­out sac­ri­fic­ing the charm and beauty of the orig­i­nal struc­ture.”

Built by Charles A. Pills­bury, the lofty Tu­dorstyle man­sion, which in­spired the fam­ily’s coun­try es­tate, was left to his twin sons, Charles S. and John S. Pills­bury. Even­tu­ally the home was in­cluded on the Na­tional Reg­is­ter of His­toric Build­ings, and un­der the um­brella of the Min­neapo­lis Her­itage Preser­va­tion Com­mis­sion be­fore be­ing op­er­ated by a the­ater foun­da­tion and even­tu­ally ac­quired by BLIND Inc.

The first con­tes­tant from North­west In­di­ana to com­pete in a Pills­bury Bake-Off was in 1953, when it was called Pills­bury’s Grand Na­tional Recipe Con­test. Mrs. Frank R. Fer­ren, of Ho­bart, was one of the 100 fi­nal­ists, try­ing to bake her way to the top $100,000 prize with her ap­ple but­ter pump­kin pie, de­scribed as us­ing “spicy ap­ple but­ter to give a new tart-and-mel­low taste to this golden-brown pump­kin pie.”

Philip Potempa has pub­lished three cook­books and is the di­rec­tor of mar­ket­ing at Theatre at the Cen­ter. Mail ques­tions to: From the Farm, P.O. Box 68, San Pierre, IN 46374.


Philip Potempa

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