Sunday, November 6, 2011

2011 AR Cornbread Festival

Saturday was the 2011 Arkansas Cornbread Festival in Little Rock. I entered the competition thinking it would be a fun activity to participate in; I had no idea how big of a festival it was going to be. The number of attendents kept increasing which made me more nervous as the competition neared.  The last count I had heard was 1000 people and  I thought, how am I’m going to fix enough cornbread for that many people?  I knew that they would only be getting a 2 oz sample cup but still, that's a lot of people.
I spent Friday afternoon and evening baking cornbread. They suggested that we make 4 13x9 in square inch pans worth of cornbread, I ended up shooting for 5 just to be safe.  My cornbread was called Citrus Corny Cornbread. It originated from my mom’s corny cornbread recipe that I grew up on but I put a little twist on it by adding orange juice, orange zest, and cream cheese.
After 3 trips to Walmart and one batch that didn’t turn out right, I ended up with 5 13x9 inch pans worth!
Saturday morning, the day had finally come and I still had no idea what to expect. All I knew was that I wanted to get there early to set up and get prepared.  The amateur cooks were all placed in the same area and the tables were on a first come, first served basis. So, since I got there early I got a pretty good spot.
I made the signs and used a gray twin sheet for the table cloth and my mom made the yellow table clothes and the runner. I thought the table turned out to be really cute.
Once we got there we were told  that we would need to have some cornbread placed in a container for the judges.   The samples were being judged on presenatation, aroma, and taste.  Here's what my sample looked like:

My main concern of the day was how I would keep the cornbread warm. Cornbread always taste better warm but the rules stated that contestants would not be allowed to use electricity.
I thought about using sterno warmers but was afraid it would burn the cornbread so I decided to use hot hands and placed several of them in an ice chest with the cornbread. It did its job in the ice chest but once the cornbread was out, the cold air was our enemy.
As you can see we did our best with the hot hands. Winking smile It didn’t really work though.
At about 10:45 we started getting a rush of people and we started cutting as fast as we could.
Kyle was great at talking to everyone and reminding them who to vote for; I was just busy cutting and listening to all the reactions of how they all felt about the cornbread.
It was interesting hearing what people had to say. They would say “Citrus huh?”; “I’ve never had anything like this before!”; “Wow this is very moist.”; “I’ve come over here because I was told you have the best cornbread.” I even had 2 people try to buy my cornbread right there. I couldn’t believe how well it was received.
 The tasting was scheduled to last until 2 but I ran out of cornbread at around 1:30. I couldn’t believe that I had already gone through 5 pans! They told us that they were expecting 800-1000 people but 3,000+ showed up.
I was very fortunate to have 3 very wonderful helpers: Kyle, my mom and Aunt Lori. They all were a huge help and I couldn’t have done any of this without them.

My Beautiful Aunt Lori
And my beautiful mom!
I ended up winning 1st place in the amateur, sweet category! There were so many great cooks out there and it was an honor to spend the day with them. Kyle was such a trooper throughout the whole day. He even bought me those flowers that you saw on the table. He is so sweet!
I want to thank everyone who came out to support me! It really meant a lot to see your smiling faces!