On Sunday afternoon, Gourmet Royale’s Fried Seafood Okra Balls won Best (Savory) & Most Creative Dish at the State Fair of Texas Big Tex Choice Awards. Only once before in the 17 year history of the awards has a single dish won two trophies. (Tom Grace won the same two awards for his Funnel Cake Bacon Queso Burger in 2017.)
Great victories are a balm for the members of the parish family who run Gourmet Royale. Norma Parish (Greg’s mother and family matriarch) had worked in the State Fair dealerships for 35 years and died less than a month ago.
The family, like many other fair trade food dealers, looked forward to a happier ending for this year’s fair after last year’s cancellation. Obviously, they are off to a good start.
James Barrera may have given his sweet dish, The Armadillo, a boost with a quick impromptu interpretation and accompanied by a London Homesick Blues ukulele (I want to come home with the armadillo) as he accepted. his finalist fries basket trophy. But truth be told, the dish didn’t need any extra credit to earn the best taste in the sweet category.
Nick and Vera Bert of Bert’s Concessions were also honored at the event and received a gigantic trophy for winning the Fair Food Madness: The Big Tex Choice Awards Championship. This parenthesis-style online voting poll took place last fall in place of the annual Big Tex Choice Awards since the fair’s cancellation. Bert’s Texas Fried FRITOS® Pie topped all other food fair winners from the previous year to claim this title.
Although the event is restricted to the media this year, host Karissa Condoianis, spokesperson and senior vice president of the State Fair of Texas, spoke to the famous judges and kept the show moving.
Judges who had the unenviable task of picking the winners from all of these fabulous fair trade dishes included 2021 Marconi Award nominee (Major Market Radio Personality of the Year) and KSCS radio personality Michelle Rodriguez. Rodriguez, who has been with KSCS for 12 years and recently joined the Hawkeye in the Morning show, hasn’t missed a year of the State Fair of Texas (except last year when it was canceled and we have it). all missed) since before birth.
Donovan Lewis, co-host of The Ticket of the world’s most dangerous lunchtime show, The Norm and D Invasion also joined the panel. Lewis has been called “the king of the fair” for visiting the fair at least twice a week each year. His strategy of going to the fair in the evening, sometimes just for dinner, and then coming home, seems like a smart strategy.
TV personality and chef / owner of Roots Chicken Shak and new Roots Southern table, Tiffany Derry sat next to real best friend (or something close) chef Uno Immanivong at the judges table. Derry will soon be putting his skills as a judge to the service of a PBS cooking competition show, The great American recipe, which is starting filming soon and will premiere next summer.
Immanivong ran the famous Trinity Groves Chino Chinatown restaurant and now owns Red Stix, with a location near SMU and another opening next month at Farmers Branch. One of the funniest personalities on food television and Dallas, Immanivong chose style over comfort for her appearance at the Big Tex Choice Awards, wearing trendy skinny jeans for the event. She happily expressed regret over this choice after judging just three dishes. (Stretch pants forever!)
Chef Kent Rathbun, who founded beloved Dallas restaurant Abacus, completed the panel. United States today named Abacus “One of the best meals in the world”. Rathbun’s current plans with his wife and fellow restaurateur Tracy Rathbun include Imoto, Shinsei, Lover’s Seafood & Market and Catering by Chef Kent Rathbun.
Each judge made informative (and sometimes hilarious) comments on each dish as the competition progressed. They made the job of another great task easier – making it fun to watch others eat. If you’re lucky enough to attend the event for years to come, the entertainment alone is worth the ticket price, and sampling all of the finalist dishes makes it a no-brainer.
Yes, we do know, what you really want to know is the taste of the food and the dishes you should line up for at the fair. In truly unbiased reporting, we say “All”. For now, here are the full descriptions and some of the judges’ comments on the winners.
For the double-award-winning savory dish, Greg Parish and members of the Gourmet Royale business family started with an okra recipe handed down in their family for four generations. Fried Seafood Okra Balls are made with a dark roux, gulf coast shrimp, simmered chicken, blue crab meat and andouille sausage. After being breaded and fried, the balls are served with a roux sauce, chicken fried okra spears (from Bonton Farms), a miniature bottle of hot sauce, and savory crackers (which you may need, as these tasty bites have a very spicy kick even without the hot sauce.)
“First of all, I love okra,” famed Chief Justice Tiffany Derry said of the fried spheres, conjuring up all the meat and seafood and “crab legs hanging around”.
“They gave me the cutest little bottle of Tabasco,” said Derry. “And then they fried okra for me.” It’s a big praise from someone whose latest restaurant is literally a tribute to southern cuisine.
Also a fan of the dish, famous Chief Justice Kent Rathbun said, “I can’t wait to come to the fair and buy them. (If you ever get a chance to play cards with Chief Rathbun, say ‘yes’ because he doesn’t have a poker face at all. And you won’t have to worry if he gets into too much debt. ; he can pay you with barbecue.)
“I can’t stop eating it,” Michelle Rodriguez said, and Lewis added, “The kick on this thing is amazing.” Immanivong called it “absolutely amazing”.
The judges also praised The Armadillo, two fried cookies made with an iron and filled with semifreddo cookie butter, which is semi-frozen, Italian-style ice cream. Derry and Immanivong gathered for a selfie with dessert.
Immanivong said the cookies were like a funnel cake. Rodriguez called them light and delicious, almost reminiscent of a bunuelo. Whatever name you give it, you’ll probably agree with Lewis, who said, “It’s delicious, isn’t it? ! And it’s an armadillo!
Check back soon for more on what the judges had to say, how we thought it all tasted, and pro tips for enjoying Big Tex Choice Awards finalist dishes and other great food at the fair.