Wild game cook-off brings amateur chefs out of the woodwork
by Mark Ledbetter
TALLADEGA SUPERSPEEDWAY – The aroma of wild game and spices cooking replaced the smell of gas and oil in the Sprint Cup Series Garage at Talladega Superspeedway Saturday as cooks throughout the region participated in the eighth annual Alabama Army National Guard/Alabama Wildlife Federation Wild Game Cook-Off.

Participants from Talladega, Lincoln, Coldwater, Pell City and Alexander City brought their recipes and wild game to help raise funds for the Wildlife Federation.

Celebrity judges were brought in to render their opinion on which team was able to prepare the best dish in three divisions – fish, fowl and game.

The panel of judges in Saturday’s event included WZZK’s weeknight DJ Jamie Boyd, Rick and Bubba’s Sports Czars Michael “Helmsey” Helms and Greg Burgess, CBS 42’s Al Ratcliffe, ABC 33/40’s Charles Daniel, 100 WAPI’s Matt Murphy, Fox 6’s J.P. Dice and NBC 13’s Lisa Crane.

BlackRidge Land Company served as the lead sponsor to help raise funds and awareness for the conservation of Alabama wildlife and natural resources.

“It’s for a good cause,” Korn Whole Cook Team’s Bill Browning said. The team from Lincoln and Talladega entered this year’s competition for the first time. Their offering for the taste buds was duck gumbo made from a recipe by team member Steve Perry.

“We have the winning recipe, and if not, it must be rigged,” team member Gary Steed said. “And our wives said we needed to compete because there would be nothing to eat when we got home.”

Browning and Steed said the duck were shot locally and after smoking the duck, the cooking process took about seven hours.

Both complained they didn’t get any duck hunting in this year because of so much rain.

“I wish they’d move the season back a couple of weeks,” Steed said. “That’s when the ducks start coming into this area.”

Chonita’s Cookers are from Alexander City and team members Mark and Severa McGrady agreed they like to compete because proceeds go to a worthy cause.

Severa said their first exposure to the event came because someone gave them free tickets; they enjoyed it and decided to come back to compete.

One of the dishes they served was Baracho Bean with deer sausage.

Ironically, Severa, who was raised in south Texas, never ate the game her father brought home, but says she loves it now.

“Now I love it,” Severa said. “Who would have known?”

The Guzzlin Gormets from Pell City served several dishes including Crab Critter and cheese grits and Cincinnati Style Chili Spaghetti.

The cook for the team is Chad Houze. He said this was his second year to compete and he wanted to compete to help the Wildlife Association.

“I have a strong sense of community,” Houze said, “and I need to give back to the community.”

Choccolocco Critter Getters’ Jim, Judith and Robert Keat are from Coldwater. They served sea bass, either fried or blackened on soft taco shells. Jim said he competed for “the fun of it.”

Perhaps traveling the shortest distance to compete was Bobby Smith. Smith’s Montana Saloon and Grill in Lincoln, just down the road from the speedway, served bison stew.

“I like to come see regular customers, hopefully get new customers, and for the fun of it,” Smith said.

Smith said the Saloon and Grill has a bison burger as a regular item on their menu.

There are several divisions in which participants can compete, including a youth division, pot luck, fish, game and fowl.

Also people will get to vote for the Alabama Army National Guard People’s Choice, and there is an award for the best Booth Decoration.

A grand award for Best Overall will be awarded.

Winners of each division will be announced at a later date.

Contact Mark Ledbetter mledbetter@dailyhome.com

© 2013