Even if she hadn't won the top $10,000 prize, Marcia G. Adams of Fort Wayne, Ind., easily earned an unofficial award for ''best performance'' under the stress of competition during the recent 1982 National Chicken Cooking Contest at the Loews Anatole Hotel.
The former TV talk show hostess chatted animatedly to food writers and others passing by her range in the aisle of states at the annual cooking spree.
''My father was a county agent and I did a lot of cooking demonstrations in 4 -H work and entered the state fair often,'' said Marcia later, explaining her easy way with words while cooking for cash on a deadline.
The 47-year-old mother of two grown sons said her mom encouraged her to help in the kitchen when she was only four years old.
Her winning recipe came from a friend, she admitted freely. ''Originally it was called 'weird chicken,' because no one can believe what's in it!'' she said. ''The kraut tastes almost like onion,'' she added, carefully squeezing the juice from each handful of sauerkraut.
The $10,000 recipe, mercifully renamed ''Baked Chicken Reuben,'' calls for layers of chicken breasts, kraut, and sliced Swiss cheese, topped with bottled Thousand Island salad dressing. It bakes 1 1/2 hours in the oven. Hardly what might be called a classic entree, the dish was chosen by a panel of 15 cooking experts and so must surely be worth a trial run at home.
Marcia is currently working on a cookbook of ''favorite recipes from art-museum people.'' An art consultant and art dealer, she also loves cooking with herbs but because of her busy schedule admits to eating out a lot. Husband Richard is a banking executive and ''will have good ideas'' about what to do with the prize money, she said.
For another unusual dish, ''Fried Chicken Salad,'' Mrs. Phelles Violet Friedenauer of Rockford, Ill., won the $4,000 second prize. ''I was looking for a way to use leftover fried chicken,'' said Phelles, who cooks mostly for her husband, Richard, now that their four sons and one daughter are grown.
Third place winner was Mrs. Alice M. Hisada of Raleigh, N.C., fourth place winner was Mrs. Doris H. Gibson of Columbia, Ky., and the fifth prize went to Paul E. Hayes of Georgetown, Del.
A history major at the University of Delaware, Mr. Hayes raises hens that lay ''big brown eggs'' and rabbits. He and his wife, a nurse, have a five-year-old son. Mr. Hayes also works in a fast-food restaurant, and was one of four men who were chosen to represent their states and ''cook off'' at the contest.
The 1983 national contest will be held in Birmingham, Ala., in September of next year. To enter, chicken recipes must be submitted before April 1, 1983. For more information, send a stamped, self-addressed envelope to Chicken Contest, Box 28158 Central Station, Washington, D.C. 20005.
Here is Marcia Adams's winning 1982 recipe. ''It's ideal for today's society and the chicken is incredibly tender - you can cut it with a fork if company is invited,'' she said.
Baked Chicken Reuben 4 whole broiler-fryer chicken breasts, halved and boned 1/4 teaspoon salt 1/8 teaspoon pepper 1 can (16 oz.) sauerkraut, drained (press out excess liquid) 4 slices (each about 4 by 6 inches) natural Swiss cheese 1 1/4 cups bottled Thousand Island salad dressing 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
Place chicken in greased baking pan. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place sauerkraut over chicken; top with cheese. Pour dressing evenly over cheese.
Cover with foil and bake in a 325 degree F. oven for about 1 1/2 hours or until fork can be inserted in chicken with ease. Sprinkle with chopped parsley to serve. Makes 4 servings.