Sonya Walos, the Whistler resident who participated in the Food Network show Recipe to Riches, is celebrating her new riches.
The bar manager was featured on the Nov. 16 initial broadcast of Recipe to Riches showcasing her gluten-free cookie creation, which was dubbed "The Smart Cookie" on the show.
The television series is dedicated to finding good recipes for use by President's Choice and sold in stores controlled by the Loblaws group. Other winning recipes have included ice cream, lemon pudding and grilled chicken skewers.
Walos said she was happy with the success of her cookie on the sweets and savory snacks episode of the reality show.
Each episode produces a $25,000 winner who qualifies for the grand prize of $250,000 and the title of Canada's top home cook. Walos won the $25,000 prize but she was disqualified from going any further with the show.
Before her episode aired, Walos said she spoke with a show producer about making an appearance in a store near her. The marketing representative told Walos the closest Loblaws store to her was Extra Foods in Squamish.
Walos said she then told the marketing person that a relative of hers worked with a store on Vancouver Island. According to Walos, her contact then said she would be back in communication with her soon.
"Two days later I was literally in a conference call with maybe four to six different lawyers and they were questioning me saying this is going to be recorded," said Walos.
She learned then that she was disqualified.
"(My relative) do(es) a couple of days a week in the housewares section in one of their 42 different stores," Walos said of her relative who works at an affiliated store on Vancouver Island.
A Food Network publicist said that Walos won her competition fair and square and the relative connected to Loblaws had no influence on the results of the competition Walos participated in to win the $25,000.
"This is a common eligibility rule in Canadian contests which aims to make contests fair for all participants," the show producers wrote in a disclaimer that was broadcast at the end of the episode featuring the win by Walos. The same disclaimer was published on the show's website and Facebook page.
When news of the situation went out, fans of the television show started sharing their thoughts. Walos felt some of the comments posted on the show's Facebook page were unfair.
"Cheaters never prosper," show fan Tammy Sinclair wrote on the television show's Facebook page. "I will not buy this product if they put it out as I do not support dishonest people. I have bought all winner's products and I am sure that if I bought this one it would really leave a sour taste in my mouth."
Other posters accused Walos of being a liar and some felt that she didn't deserve the $25,000.
"If I wanted to lie I would have never said anything and I would have still been in the running if you think about it," said Walos. "I have nothing to hide and I'm an honest person."
She pointed out that she didn't know her relative worked at a store connected to Loblaws so if she didn't point that out to the show representative she would likely still be in the contest.
Walos is critical of the way the show is applying its rules. She said one of the other show contestants is a graduate of a pastry school. One of the show rules, she said, bars food stylists, professional chefs, restaurant workers, caterers and others working in the food industry.
"You just have to kind of laugh about something like that," Walos said of her experience with the reality show.
The winning gluten-free cookie Walos created for the show was made available at stores owned by Loblaws on Nov. 19. The recipe for "The Smart Cookie" is published on the Recipe to Riches website.