Nikki Velarde, The Belton Journal
The variety of delicious smells drifting from the Killeen Civic and Conference Center drew in quite the crowd on August 4th for the 7th Annual Flavors of Central Texas. The annual event is a large showcase of area food and is designed to please the palates for all who attend.
Restaurants, catering companies, and bakers set up beautifully decorated booths and offer samples of their finest foods. Many other non-food vendors also participate by setting up booths to showcase what their business has to offer. In total, 43 vendors were on site at this year’s event. In between all the demonstrations and contests, raffle winners were being called up to claim their prizes.
To start the event, a cooking demonstration was held by a guest chef. Culinary Arts student from Central Texas College, Jayson Gay, demonstrated how to make a concoction of his own design; bacon wrapped chicken with jalapeno and cheddar cheese. Basically, his version of a refined southern chicken nugget. Following his demonstration, samples were handed out amongst guests who could not get enough of the deep-fried delicacy.
Meredith Viguers of Let Us Do the Cooking catering service in Killeen, also had her own cooking demonstration. Viguers demonstrated her recipe for buttermilk pancakes with berries, a favorite weekend breakfast food for her family. “I typically make around five batches just for my boys,” Viguers jokingly commented. “They just don’t know when to stop eating.”
Veronica Lomeli from PureFit Foods demonstrated how to create various healthy fruit smoothies. PureFit has a passion for providing their customers with healthy food alternatives. Their meals are perfectly portioned, gluten free, diabetic friendly, low in the glycemic index, and are prepared to increase energy levels, lose weight, and contribute to an overall healthier lifestyle.
Four area chefs also competed in the Top Chef competition. Two secret ingredients were revealed at 9 a.m. that morning and the chefs were given one hour to create an appetizer, entrée, and dessert that incorporated the secret ingredients. This year’s secret ingredients for the competition were hummus and sangria.
Guest judges for the competition included Meg Bonacorsi of Good Morning Texas Anchor and Reporter, KXXV News Channel 25, Brandon Marshall, a Video Journalist for KWTX News Channel 10, and Olivia LaBorde, a Reporter and Anchor for KCEN.
The plates were judged anonymously on taste, plating, originality, and use of secret ingredients. Competition was tough and the judges were back and forth on which dishes were their favorite. However, it was consensual that the plate presentation this year was exquisite as the judges kept snapping pictures of the dishes on their cellphones before they even dug in.
Once all dishes were tested and judged, the chefs were revealed. This year’s competitors in the Top Chef were Brandon Letson of Classic Catering, Matt Cranfield of Shiloh Restaurant, Jimmy Tittle of Sports City Grill, and Wanda Perez of Scratch Elevated Bistro. In the end, there was one winner, and for a second year in a row Shiloh Restaurant took the Top Chef award.
To end the evening with a bang and a bit of audience participation, Cynergy Cinemas hosted a hot dog eating contest. Eight participants made their way to the stage to test their stomachs and win the special prize package from Cynergy Cinemas.
Participants included Jovan Mills, Sandra Tenroe, Vanessa Cunningham, Cameron Stark, Brian Lahmann, Jordan Dean, Terry Williams, and Jonathan Packer. The goal was first participant to finish consuming all seven hot dogs, or the most hot dogs consumed in 10 minutes, was to be named the winner.
The women charged forward and kept an exceptional lead on the men throughout the long 10 minute ordeal. In the end, Vanesa Cunningham was named the winner of the contest after consuming all the buns while only leaving a couple dogs remaining.
People’s Choice Ballot winners were also named. Best Appetizer was awarded to Jason’s Deli, Best Entrée was awarded to Bones Cracked Rib, and Best Dessert and Best Decorated Booth both went to Pink Tulips Cakery. Kayla Robinson was also called up and won the Fullest Fan award and received a $100 Visa gift card.
A special thanks went out to all the wonderful sponsors for the event. Presenting Sponsors Central Texas College and KNCT, Platinum Sponsors All American Chevrolet of Killeen, News Channel 25, and Lamar advertising, Gold Sponsors Metroplex Health Systems and McDonalds, as well as the Silver Sponsors First National Bank of Texas, Texas A&M University Central Texas, Noodles & Company, Rudy’s Country Store and BBQ, RE/MAX, as well as Lott, Vernon & Company.