I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Enter these contests! You, too, could win cash prizes, kitchen gear, fame and (at least some) fortune. I can say this with particular certainty after interviewing winners like Ellie Mathews, 1998 winner of the Pillsbury Bake-Off, who treated the contest like a $1 million code, which she proceeded to break. I’ve seen enough recipes from readers to know plenty of you are good enough to beat the odds, so consider putting your culinary creativity toward:

Chipotle Mexican Grill: Create a new burrito, make a video or record a song or otherwise sing its praises, and win $10,000 through the “My Chipotle” campaign. Winners will be picked based on how well the submissions “discuss Chipotle menu items while remaining consistent with the company’s values and image.” (Talking points hints: Sustainable. Organic. Big chain does not have to mean bad guy.) Besides the dough, the first place winner also gets the burrito added to the Chipotle menu. Second prize in the contest is $5,000 plus a Chipotle party for 50. Third prize is a free burrito a week for a year. Submit entries by Aug. 14, full details at mychipotle.com.

Pietopia: Could a pie describe the way you are feeling right now? Act fast, and you can make today’s deadline for Pietopia, a Portland-based contest where I’m interested in reading every entry. The rules: “(P)lease submit your pie recipe and written explanation, including why you chose the recipe and how the taste of it relates to the current state of your life in under 300 words by July 15th, 2009. The project will culminate with an exhibition of the winners at the Portland Farmer’s Market Eastbank between 20th and Salmon on Thursday August 20, 2009. Each winning pie will receive a limited edition screen print reflecting the ideas in the written statement. Pies will be judged upon the creativity and innovativeness in ideas reflecting the ingredients used in the recipe.” Send statements and recipes to: pietopiacontest@gmail.com. Check out the blog for full details and some of last year’s winners, including the bittersweet “Chemo Savvy Apple Pie” and the “Homesick for Miami Pie”.

Puyallup Fair: Prizes range from $25 to $1,000 for the various edibles contests at the Puyallup Fair, and the bragging rights that come with a genuine old-fashioned blue ribbon can’t be beat. Contests include jams and jellies, peanut butter cookies, salsa, Spam, even Malt-O-Meal. I’ll be one of the judges in this year’s apple pie contest, so I’m especially pulling for that one. Full rules and entry forms here; note that some categories require pre-registration by Sept. 1. Here’s a story I loved writing, on a previous year’s pie contest at the fair.

Sutter Home Build A Better Burger: I keep seeing names of finalists from other food contests popping up on the winners list in this serious and lucrative contest, which boasts a $50,000 grand prize for the best beef burger recipe and $10,000 for the best “alternative” burger. Enter by July 29 (snail-mail entries must be received by that date); full details are online here. Entries are judged on creativity, taste, visual appeal, and ease of preparation.

Tillamook Mac ‘n Cheese: Submit your recipe to the fifth annual Tillamook Macaroni and Cheese Recipe Contest for a chance to win a grand prize of $5,000 and 25 pounds of cheese. As a judge in last year’s contest, I can also vouch that it’s a lot of fun, and a cut above most mainstream food contests, which tend to value Kraft over craft. Full entry rules are here; note that entries must be postmarked by Aug. 12 or e-mailed by Aug. 17.

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