Amanda Kimble

Staff Writer

The streets of Hico were alive Saturday as the 5th Annual Texas Steak Cookoff Beef Symposium and Tourist Trap had everything to offer - great food, great entertainment, dozens of vendors and a crowd of hungry, happy beef eaters.

Top honors went to Bluff Dale Restaurateur and owner of Let’s Eat, Curren Dodds, who stole the champion title in the celebrity division for the second consecutive year. He proved simple preparation, coupled with his command of the culinary arts wins the pallet of steak lovers every time.

A humble Dodds appeared shocked as the announcement was made that he would leave as the champion following a tie breaking round between himself and Chef Jack Matthews of the Inn at Circle T.

According to event chairman Steve Morgan, Dodds will tout the honor of Chef Americus at next year’s event but will not be able, due to event rules, to compete for a third straight win.

The event, which has grown increasingly popular over the last few years, was this year stage to the Food Network Challenge, which according to the network’s Web site,, takes you to the biggest and best food battles around the world.

In addition to a little bit of celebrity appeal, the event offered a variety of vendors from across the state and a few from beyond Texas borders. The high spirited crowd also enjoyed free hors d’oeuvres and samples of fresh grilled Texas beef throughout the day. The smorgasbord of samplings lead to the announcement of the top 10 backyard chefs who gave it their all, telling their grilling secrets to Food Network Challenge hosts and cameras.

The entertainment kept the crowd going through the 5:30 p.m. dinner call, where ticket holding attendees were treated to a succulent ribeye steak prepared by the backyard chef of their choice. The lines to the top 10 stretched from the center of the city to the edge of the cookoff grounds.

Finally, the Lake Whitney Meat Company team was named the best Backyard Chef in Texas.

The day was a fun way to get out in support of small town Texas economy, as was the point of the event, according to its chairman.

“The whole idea behind the cookoff is for economic development in Hico,” Morgan said. “If we put our best into hosting an event that keeps getting better every year, tourist dollars will continue to come to town.”

Representatives from the Texas Beef Council, including product marketing coordinator Andrew Brooks, might argue a different purpose behind the event. That purpose being to share the message that in Texas, and on the streets of Hico, beef is what’s for dinner.

Either way, everyone seemed to agree that the Hico Economic Development Corporation hosted the best cookoff in the event’s history.