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The Weather’s No Challenge for This Year’s Paella Challenge

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Don Pullum, recently seen on "The Taste," and his assistant assemble their paella.

Don Pullum, recently seen on "The Taste," and his assistant assemble their paella.

A last blast of winter didn't stop hundreds of hungry people from turning out Sunday to the fifth annual Paella Challenge at the Pearl Brewery Sunday. But the gray skies and perpetual threat of rain did force the chefs and the sellout crowd under the 281 overpass for some protection.
Jesse Perez of Arcade Midtown Kitchen is the people's choice winner.

Jesse Perez of Arcade Midtown Kitchen is the people's choice winner.

The new location  may have put a crimp into the parking, but people really enjoyed the more intimate space in which chefs from cross the city and across the country competed against each other to create the best and the most unique variations on paella, the classic Spanish dish that generally starts with some olive oil and garlic and finishes with a hefty dose of culinary magic. And on a cold, damp Sunday afternoon, what could be more welcome than a plate of steaming hot food laden with everything from scallops to roasted pig to clams and mussels?
David Gilbert of Tuk Tuk Taproom

David Gilbert of Tuk Tuk Taproom

Quite a few people stopped by Don Pullum's table to talk with the man who recently finished a season on ABC's "The Taste." His final dish on that cooking show had been paella — and he didn't survive the round intact — so the Mason chef and winemaker was looking for a chance to redeem himself. People loved his combination of lobster, crawfish, shrimp, and more over rice seasoned with plenty of saffron and other seasonings, as they did creations from a host of chefs, including Susanna Trilling, Robbie Nowlin, Stefan Bowers, Angie Bridges, Zach Lutton, Steven McHugh and Jason Dady. Chef James Canter of Victoria County Club, who has taken top prize several years in a row, became a judge this year, but he also managed to have a booth out of the competition. The end result was a tasty way of raising money for scholarships, which will go to local culinary students, organizer Johnny Hernandez reminded the crowd before handing out the awards to the following winners:
Cesar Cervantes of El Bucanero joined Jeff Balfour to create a winning paella.

Cesar Cervantes of El Bucanero joined Jeff Balfour to create a winning paella.

High school:
  1. Robert E. Lee
  2. Brennan
  3. Sam Houston
Classic:
  1. Tim Rattray, the Granary
  2. Michael Sohoki, Restaurant Gwendolyn
  3. Michael Skibitcky, H-E-B
Non-traditional:
  1. The winning team from Robert E. Lee High School.

    The winning team from Robert E. Lee High School.

    David Gilbert, Tuk Tuk Taproom
  2. Jeff Balfour, an upcoming Pearl restaurant, and Cesar Cervantes of El Bucanero
  3. Jordan Mackey, Las Ramblas, Hotel Contessa
People's choice:
  1. Jesse Perez, Arcade Midtown Kitchen
By winning their division, the students from Robert E. Lee High School will be traveling to New York City and on to the Culinary Institute of America main campus at Hyde Park, N.C.
Susana Trilling makes paella with her team.

Susana Trilling makes paella with her team.

Paella from Stefan Bowers of Feast.

Paella from Stefan Bowers of Feast.

Members of the Memorial High School team prepare their paella.

Members of the Memorial High School team prepare their paella.

Paella from Tim McCarty of Rochester, Minn.

Paella from Tim McCarty of Rochester, Minn.

The folks from Acadiana Cafe stage crawfish races.

The folks from Acadiana Cafe stage crawfish races.

Paella from chef David Delgado of the San Antonio Food Bank.

Paella from chef David Delgado of the San Antonio Food Bank.

 
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