, Muskogee, OK

January 18, 2014

Cook-Off proves to be a hot ticket

Crowd of about 500 exceeds number of tasters expected

By Travis Sloat
Phoenix Staff Writer

— Terry Eddings had a novel idea while waiting in line at the Soul Food Cook-Off.

“You could bottle the smell coming in,” Eddings said. “You’d make a million off it.”

Pleasant aromas permeated the Muskogee Civic Center on Saturday afternoon as cooks brought their best dishes to be entered in the 10th annual event.

Debra Mitchell, who was cooking for Bella Sista Catering, said it was her fifth year cooking at the event.

“I’m nervous,” Mitchell said. “You want everything to be good.

“The competition keeps me coming out. I like seeing what everyone is doing as well.”

Mitchell, who entered a dish in all five categories of the competition, said her favorite dish this year was her oxtail stew.

“It’s a recipe my father always made,” she said. “This is the first time I’ve tried it, and I think it turned out really well. It surprised me.”

The competition drew a couple of celebrity judges this year, including a champion from the “Chopped” television cooking show and the vice president of the Southern Food and Beverage Museum.

Brandon Boudet, who won on a 2013 episode of “Chopped,” said he thought some of the food he judged was really good.

“The first rib that I had was great,” Boudet said. “I was also pretty impressed with the cream puff I tried. It was executed very well. I think Muskogee could have a few ‘Chopped’ champions in the future.”

Boudet also said he thought the event was good for small towns such as Muskogee.

“It’s great because there’s nothing like this in a large city like Los Angeles,” he said. “It’s really cool and fun to see how everyone knows everybody.”

Approximately 500 people attended the cook-off. At one point, the crowd was so large that extra tables had to be added to accommodate taster seating.

Cassandra Gaines, the event’s coordinator, said that was just fine with her.

“This is a huge success,” Gaines said. “I’m very proud of the turnout and the diversity in our cooks and tasters. I know some people were upset about the lines, but that just means it’s growing.

“For that I have to thank God; he is my creator and he always gives me a vision of what to do.”

Tiara Winston of Muskogee brought Khalloe Miles to the cook-off so they could both taste the soul food.

“My favorite part is the tasting,” Winston said. “I also like meeting new people. Everyone is so nice.”

Miles and Winston both said the competition had inspired them to try their luck next year as cooks.

“The different types and styles of food attract different types and styles of people,” Miles said. “I like to come to events like that.

“We (he and Winston) might be on the same team next year, and we’ll be the king and queen of the Soul Food Cook-Off.”

Reach Travis Sloat at (918) 684-2908 or  

Cook-Off winners


First — Ashley Davis

Second — Janet Brown

Third — Bernice Tharp


First — Debra Mitchell

Second — Grace Episcopal Church

Third — Ashley Davis


First — Bernice Tharp

Second — Ashley Davis

Third — Grace Episcopal Church


First — Grace Episcopal Church

Second — Bernice Tharp

Third — Debra Mitchell


First — Grace Episcopal Church

Second — Bernice Tharp

Third — Janet Brown

People’s Choice

Derrell Thompson