Chef, food writers to judge this year’s Arkansas Rice Expo Recipe Contest
By Kezia Nanda
U of A System Division of Agriculture
July 29, 2014
- Chef Matt Bell,writers Emily Van Zandt, Lee Hogan to judge 2014 Arkansas Rice Expo Recipe Contest
- Arkansas Rice Expo is set for Friday, Aug. 1, at the Grand Prairie Center, 2807 Highway 165 South, in Stuttgart
- Learn more about the contest at www.uaex.edu/rice-expo/
STUTTGART, Ark.— Even for a man who has built a high-flying career in cuisine, the idea of judging the 2014 Arkansas Rice Expo Recipe Contest on Friday is just a little nerve-wracking.
“I’m nervous to judge because food is so subjective,” said Matt Bell, executive chef of South on Main restaurant in Little Rock. “What I like isn’t certainly the best” for someone else, he added.
Bell, who trained at Le Cordon Blue in Austin, Texas, is no stranger to Southern cooking, which is the mainstay of South on Main’s menu. He’s also been in the kitchen at North Little Rock’s Ristorante Capeo, Argenta Seafood Co., and Ashley’s at the Capital Hotel in Little Rock.
Bell is one of a trio of judges for this year’s Arkansas Rice Expo Recipe Contest. Sharing tasting duties this year are Emily Van Zandt of Sync and Arkansas Life magazines, and Lee Hogan, who writes for Little Rock’s Soiree and Arkansasbusiness.com.
The Top 10 finalists of the rice recipe prelims will bring their dishes to the Arkansas Rice Expo at the Grand Prairie Center, 2807 Highway 165 South, in Stuttgart.
The Rice Recipe Contest aims to “help promote the rice industry in the state of Arkansas and to send the message out that Arkansas is the No. 1 rice producer in the United States,” said Keith Cleek, Phillips County extension agent for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture. Besides that, the event also works to encourage safe food handling skills and advance healthy cooking skills.
“Highlighting production quality in the state can only help restaurant businesses,” Bell said.
Bell is excited because of the high quality of rice grown in Arkansas that will be the base of the rice recipe contest. Rice that stands out among the other ingredients is what he looks in the winning dish.
Friday’s contest won’t be the first for Van Zandt, who judged contests while working in Chicago.
“I’m really excited because this is my first time to judge a recipe contest in Arkansas,” she said, adding that she’s looking forward to dishes with a more “Southern flair.”
Good, balanced flavors are what she’ll be looking for in the rice dishes she’ll be judging. Since rice can be rather plain in taste, it’s interesting to see how people can get creative with it, she added. As someone that goes out reviewing different restaurants each week, she’s eager to try out home cooking.
Hogan is taking a simple approach with plans to take in the whole experience: “I’ll have on my elastic pants to make sure I can scarf down — I mean, judge — all the rice I can handle!”
This year’s contestants and their dishes:
- Arkansas County – King Cabbage Casserole, Connie Essex
- Arkansas County – Chicken & Wild Rice Casserole, Laura Essex
- Arkansas County – Rice and Broccoli Salad, Alice May Johnson
- Arkansas County – Hamburger Go-Go Casserole, Pam Castaneda
- Cleburne County – Grilled Rice and Black Bean Burritos with Creamy Cilantro Dipping Sauce, Tiffany Aaron
- Cross County – Petite Rice Cheese Tarts, Jennifer Martin
- Ouachita County - Ginger Curry Lime Chicken Salad with Edamame & Rice, Susan E. Bensberg
- Lincoln County – Jalapeno Corn Casserole, Carolyn Wynn
- Prairie County – Rice, Garbanzo Bean, Tomato and Cilantro Salad with Lime and Chile Dressing, Janice Corpier
- Faulkner County – Nutty Rice Bars, Karen Smithson
- Desha County – Dyan’s Rice-Salsa Dip, Dyan Bohnert
Arkansas Rice Expo attendees can watch the live judging that takes place at Salon B at 9:30 a.m.
First place winner will receive $200 and will be featured in next year’s Rice Expo cookbook. Second place winner will receive $150 and the third place winner will win $100. All three winners will get a rice basket merchandize from producers and specialty. Download the 2014 Arkansas Rice Expo cookbook at http://uaex.edu/rice-expo/Rice%20recipe%20book%202014.pdf
For more information about the Arkansas Rice Expo, visit www.uaex.edu/rice-expo/ or contact your county extension office.
The Rice Recipe Contest is an official event of the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture Research and Extension Arkansas Rice Expo. The contest is open to all eligible adults age of nineteen and above, regardless of race color, national origin, religion, gender, disability, marital or veteran status, or any other legally protected status.
All meetings and activities announced in this news release are open to all eligible persons regardless of race, color, national origin, religion, gender, age, disability, marital or veteran status, or any other legally protected status. Persons with disabilities who require alternative means for communication of program information (large print, audiotapes, etc.) should notify the county Extension office as soon as possible prior to the activity.
Media Contact: Mary Hightower
Dir. of Communication Services
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service