She Won a Fortune With a Cookie
<p>Carolyn Gurtz, a Maryland resident, took the million-dollar grand prize in the Pillsbury Bake-Off with her Double Delight Peanut Butter Cookie. <i><b>As told to Wendy Tiefenbacher.</b></i></p>
What was your strategy for winning? It took me a while to figure it out. I've entered for most of the past 15 years, but this was the first time I was among the 100 finalists. I think the two secrets are to make your recipe easy to prepare and to make sure it appeals to all ages. And you have to in-corporate some of the sponsors' ingredients.
What are you going to do with $1 million? The money is awarded as an annuity, so I'll receive $50,000 a year for the next 20 years. And we have to remember that the $50,000 is more like $30,000 a year, after taxes. Fortunately, my husband has 25 years of experience as a financial planner. We will spend some on our family and give some to our church. And it will certainly help with our retirement.
Didn't you win appliances, too? I get $10,000 worth of appliances, and we have to pay $3,000 to $4,000 in taxes on them. We're not complaining. We plan to redo our kitchen.
Can you tell us a little more about how you'll handle the money? When you win money like this, you have to make a list of what you want to do before spending it or giving it away. We've already been contacted by people offering to buy our annuity for a lump sum, but we have no intention of doing that. We plan to be a little more aggressive in our investing. But I have no desire to market my cookie, write a cookbook or anything else.
Are you doing a lot of media interviews? I've done several radio interviews, and I've been invited to appear on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno. I'll be the straight man in the middle between Jay and an invited guest, probably a comedian. They'll be telling jokes on either side of me while I'm baking the cookies. I've also appeared on the Today Show. They pampered me with a stylist and a hair-and-makeup person. Treated me like a celebrity. They even had someone who had actually baked the cookies using my recipe. It all happened to fall on the day that the Pope was visiting, and the other segments of the show were preempted -- except my cookie segment. I felt blessed that day.