SAN DORITO, California: This sun-splashed city of 38,000 in northeast California is known for several things; bumper crops of kumquats and a top-notch baton-twirling school–but football isn’t one of them. “That’s about to change,” says Mayor Ted Klushkulski as he watches municipal employees string a banner between two streetlights. “Pasadena better not look back,” he says, referring to the home of the nation’s oldest post-season college game, the Rose Bowl. “We’re gaining on them.”
What has the Mayor and local sports fans excited is the fast-approaching kickoff for the Caesar Salad Bowl, the only bowl game whose opponents will be chosen exclusively from the nation’s culinary arts colleges, a sector of higher education that has been woefully under-represented in postseason play, according to Butch DeLatte, sports reporter for the Food Channel.
“These kids, I can’t say enough about them,” DeLatte says after interviewing Bill Reed, head coach of the Cordon Bleu State Anchovies, who arrived this morning after a long bus ride from Norman Y. Mineta International Airport in San Jose. “Some of them sustained serious injuries cutting julienne carrots and celery, but they persevered when they lost a knuckle making crudités.”
The Anchovies’ opponent in tonight’s game, expected to draw a crowd of up to 237 to a 10,000-seat high school stadium, are the Fighting Croutons of the Southern Illinois School of Culinary Arts, who came back from an 0-3 start to finish 6-4 with a stirring last-second victory over the Missouri School of Barbecue on Thanksgiving Day. “Those guys threw everything at us, a lot of surprise plays,” said Defensive Coach Ancil Mullins. “Nobody expects smoked turkey, but we made adjustments between the candied yams and the creamed spinach.”
Some entertainment industry analysts question whether there is sufficient demand for another televised bowl game in December, when second and third-tier teams compete before nearly empty stadiums in games sponsored by lawn implement manufacturers and start-up websites. “I know it flies in the face of conventional wisdom,” says Caesar Salad Bowl Executive Director Robert Mulkern, “but there are a lot of consumer product companies dying to reach the tryptophan-induced coma couch potato demographic.”
Festivities begin today with a “Carnival of the Anchovies” parade down main street here, and the talent portion of the Little Miss Crouton competition. “We tell the gals they can do anything they want as long as it’s not X-rated,” says Mulkern. “We were surprised at the number of porn sites we found when we searched for ‘baton twirler.’”