On Thursday, November 6, 2008, two contestants will be selected to compete in the nine-person National Cook-off and its $50,000 grand prize in May 2009. The two days of cooking and judging hosted by Sanderson Farms at its Foods Division in Jackson, Mississippi, is the first of four such events across the country. Invited judges will select one finalist from the East North Central division (Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio) and one from the East South Central (Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, and Mississippi). Each of the two divisional champs will receive $1,000 in addition to getting the chance to compete for the $50,000 grand prize. A winner from each state has already been selected from the thousands of entries submitted by home cooks across the country. The contestants, themselves, are not present for the state-level and division-level judging, but they will attend and cook their dishes in the National Cook-off in a format similar to other top-level competitive cooking events. In the state and regional judging, the dishes are prepared by professional cooks for the consideration of judges drawn mainly from regional news media.

"We are grateful to Sanderson Farms for hosting the first regional judging in the 48th National Chicken Cooking Contest," said Nancy Tringali Piho, director of the National Chicken Cooking Contest. "We have many outstanding semi-finalist entries, so this will be a very competitive event. Regional judging is a new feature this year so the judging at Sanderson Farms is the first of its kind and will sharpen the focus of the National Cook-off."

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The National Cook-off will be held May 2, 2009, in San Antonio, Texas, featuring nine contestants, each of whom represents an area of the country corresponding to the divisions established by the U.S. Bureau of the Census. Other regional judging events will be held in Maryland, Arkansas, and California.

"The National Chicken Cooking Contest is a great event, and we are pleased to be involved in the preliminary stage," said Hilary Burroughs, manager of marketing of Sanderson Farms.