Sometimes a plan just comes together. When Fort Worth’s venerated Casa Mañana theatre booked “Spamalot” for a recent run, the creative folks at the theatre and the Tarrant Area Food Bank cooked up a tasty and fun idea for a benefit. Why not stage a recipe contest and put together a cookbook with proceeds benefitting the food bank? The Spam Jam recipe contest, co-sponsored by the Star-Telegram, Casa Mañana and the Tarrant Area Food Bank was the result.
First there was a call for home recipes. A panel of local celebrity foodies, dubbed the “Knights of the Round Conference Table” were called together to test their bravery as they sampled a variety of culinary masterpieces featuring the canned meat delicacy. The winning chef was Pedro Ramirez of Grand Prairie, who wowed the judges with his creation of Spam Picadillo and Rice Stuffed Pepper.
Ramirez is a home cook who has participated in a few competitions, but this is the first time he actually cooked with Spam. With one leg of the competition under his belt, he advanced to the Ultimate Spam Jam Celebrity Cookoff where he competed with local chefs on the opening night of Spamalot at Casa Mañana. The contenders were Keith Hicks of Buttons, Billy Woodrich of Billy’s Oak Acres BBQ, Manny Vasquez of the Tarrant Area Food Bank Community Kitchen and Star-Telegram “Weekend Chef” Steve Wilson. The judges were theatre-goers who voted by donating a canned good to the food bank.
The competition was fierce and many in the crowd were armed with Tums. But not Robert Joyner. He loves Spam and with good reason: he was a brand manager for Hormel for 37 years.
“We love to support community events like this,” said Joyner as he sampled one of the offerings. “More than 8 billion cans of Spam have been produced by Hormel since 1937 and I have to say it has never tasted as good as these offerings tonight!”
Tarrant Area Food Bank executive director Bo Soderbergh was circulating through the crowd, watching with a grin as canned food donations piled up as people cast their votes for their favorite dish.
“We’re pleased to be partnering with Casa Mañana and the Star-Telegram,” said Soderbergh. “Its good food, big fun and it’s a way for the nonprofit community to collaborate across sectors.”
Ramirez’s Spam Picadillo was up against some formidable competition: Grilled Spam and Shrimp Ceviche by Chef Vasquez, Spam Musubi by Chef Wilson, Spam Fritters by Chef Woodrich, and Spambalaya by Chef Buttons. And the winner is: Chef Woodrich with his tasty spam fritters! Vasquez was disappointed not to win, but was glad to have participated. “It’s all in good fun for a very good cause,” he said.
Donations from the event resulted in 2,745 meals for Tarrant Area Food Bank recipients. And lucky for all you home chefs out there, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram has published a cookbook featuring recipes for all of these dishes along with the best recipes from readers. Proceeds from recipe book sales benefit the Tarrant Area Food Bank. You can find it at www.Star-Telegram.com/SPAMJA