The field was crowded for this, the inaugural tamal-making contest at Tamales! At Pearl on Saturday.
Some 210 hopeful tamal makers had turned in their tamales for an initial judging before this day, and finalists were selected. By the time judges took their seats on Saturday, the field had been narrowed to the five best tamales in each of three categories: chicken, pork and a unique, or wild card tamal.
The judges had their work cut out for them, but it was very tasty work, to be sure. Judging on taste as well as skill in preparation were David Kellaway, chef and head of the Culinary Institute of America, San Antonio; Greg Fernandez, executive chef at La Gloria; Natalie Tejeda; Arantxa Loizaga; and myself, of SavorSA.
Each top winner will receive a $1,000 prize. The remaining four finalists in each category received a $100 gift card to H-E-B.
“This is really a proud moment for all of these finalists,” said Shelley Grieshaber, culinary director of the Pearl and contest organizer.
The winners, at the end of the day, were:
- Chicken Tamales: Cynthia Dovalina was the winner for her tender, nicely wrapped chicken tamales seasoned with green tomatillos.
- Pork Tamales: Miranda Key, for well-spiced and flavorful, but not greasy, tamales.
- Unique/Wild Card: Cindi Adcock, for her Pineapple Rum Tamales with Almond Masa. These tiny dessert tamales were wrapped in husks and tied, and were not overly sweet but definitely a dessert recipe.
- A People’s Choice award for best vendors’ tamales went to Tellez Tamales and Barbacoa, 1737 South General McMullen Drive.