Lake Zurich's Tyler Raineri fell short in his quest to have sriracha become the next big Lay's potato chip flavor, but he wound up with much more than crumbs in his pockets from the nationwide contest.
Raineri's sriracha chip was one of three finalists in the derby that attracted 3.8 million submissions for new Lay's flavors. His creation competed with cheesy garlic bread, and chicken and waffles.
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Lay's announced Tuesday that cheesy garlic bread-flavored chip creator Karen Weber-Mendham of Land O' Lakes, Wis., was the winner by receiving the biggest chunk of more than 1 million votes cast via Twitter, Facebook and text messages from Feb. 12 through May 4. She'll receive $1 million or 1 percent of her chip's net sales for the rest of the year, whichever is higher.
Raineri and the other runner-up, Christina Abu-Judom of Phoenix, each will receive $50,000 along with having their chips make cameo appearances on store shelves in the summer.
Eva Longoria's Hollywood restaurant, Beso, rolled out a red carpet for the three contestants and their families to give them star treatment as they entered for a dinner to crown the winner Monday night.
Raineri, 21, a construction management major at Illinois State University, became one of the three finalists in February. He even started becoming known as the "potato chip guy" at school.
"It was a great experience," Raineri said as he was about to board his Tuesday afternoon flight from Los Angeles to Chicago, "and everyone we worked with made the experience even more unbelievable. I'm hoping to create opportunities from this and I plan on using the money to finish school and invest most of the money."
Chef Michael Symon and Longoria were part of a panel that winnowed the flavor submissions to the final three. Frito-Lay culinary experts developed the finalists' flavors for the chips.
While the contestants were allowed to submit three ingredients, Raineri's creation was just sriracha and salt. He said he also entered smoked chipotle cheddar and garlic-hummus flavored chips in the contest.
Raineri said inspiration for the sriracha chip came from his grandmother. She sprinkled the Asian-style hot sauce on homemade potato chips.