America's amateur cooking competitions can make ''Iron Chef'' look like a kindergarten class. Sutherland spent a year following a few culinary dreamers and schemers through the cream of the more than 1,300 contests held annually. She captures the tension of the $50,000 National Beef Cook-Off and the big doughboy of them all, the million-dollar Pillsbury Bake-Off, where an ill-conceived garnish can spell disaster. But those moments are too few, and Sutherland's writing can get corny (''Yum!'' and ''fancy-schmancy'' make regular appearances). Still, the overall effect is like a warm Tunnel of Fudge cake.