By: Sheryl Sowell | Category: In Our Communities | Issue: January 2011
Enjoy delicious meats, vegetables, desserts, breads and more made by the finest soul food chefs around at the soul food cook-off.
The Dr. Martin Luther King Soul Food Cook-Off will take place at the Muskogee Civic Center on January 15, 2011 from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. So far, nearly 100 chefs have registered for the event and will prepare their delicious soul food cuisine for thousands of attendees to enjoy. Registration to compete is open until January 10.
“The Dr. Martin Luther King Soul Food Cook-Off is the perfect venue to celebrate the rich African American heritage of soul food,” says Cassandra Gaines, event creator and marketing director of the Muskogee Civic Center. “Soul food is simply comfort food made from scratch – sweet potato pie, smothered chicken and rice, smothered pork chops, homemade macaroni and cheese, greens, hot water corn bread, candied yams, peach cobbler. We bring together a diverse community of people who enjoy the tradition of enjoying good food together and having fun.”
One of Cassandra’s responsibilities as marketing director of the civic center is to host multicultural community events. In 2004, she had the idea for a soul food cook-off to commemorate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The idea quickly caught on and is now spreading across the country. Cities welcoming the landmark event this year include Little Rock, Arkansas; Tulsa; Oklahoma City; Jackson, Mississippi; and Beaumont, Texas. In each city, the event has featured some of the finest local chefs, until now unheralded, serving soul food to a sell-out crowd.
Chefs from around the state and country are invited to participate in the cook-off. Categories include meats; vegetables; desserts; homemade breads; and miscellaneous homemade items, such as pickles, pickled okra, jellies, jams, hot sauce and barbecue sauce. Cash prizes will be awarded to first, second and third place winners in each category. “We have even more people participating this year because the prize money is so high. The prize for first place in the meat category went from $1,000 to $2,000 this year. First place for dessert is $800, $350 for best vegetables, $300 for best homemade bread, and $200 for first place in the miscellaneous category,” says Cassandra. A cash prize for best booth decoration and costume will also be awarded.
Participants compete for the best soul food dish – as well as best booth decoration and costume – in the Dr. Martin Luther King Soul Food Cook-Off.
The registration deadline is January 10. Call Cassandra Gaines at (918) 684-6363 to register. “Anybody who thinks they can cook is welcome. We have cooks of all ages and from all walks of life,” Cassandra explains. “We have many first-timers and many who return year after year.”
The judging panel for the cook-off consists of professionals who either own or manage a restaurant. “The judges are different every year, and the cooks do not know who the judges are. It’s a fair game for everyone,” Cassandra says. “There is also a people’s choice award so those who attend can vote for their favorite dish.”
If you’re not the best cook but love some good soul food, admission to the event is $8, and includes all the delicious food you can handle. “This family-friendly event is guaranteed to produce fond memories and plenty of full stomachs,” says Cassandra. “We are proud to have some of the producers from the National PBS affiliates come to our city and film part of the soul food cook-off to add to their documentary ‘Soul Food Junkies’ that will air in 2011.”
The Dr. Martin Luther King Soul Food Cook-Off will be held Saturday, January 15 from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the Muskogee Civic Center, located at 425 Boston St. The afternoon features great food, fun, cash prizes and an educational component regarding the history of soul food and cooking tips from some of the country’s top chefs.
For more information or to register, contact Cassandra Gaines at Cassandra.Gaines@ muskogeeciviccenter.com or (918) 684-6363.
Sheryl Sowell was born and raised in Tulsa, OK. She graduated from Will Rogers High School and received her Bachelor of Arts in English from Northeastern State University in 2007. She has worked for Value News as editor, writer and advertising copywriter since 2008. She enjoys meeting and interviewing people for Value News articles, learning about their backgrounds, and helping to promote their businesses and local events. In her free time, she enjoys reading, trying new recipes and crafts from Pinterest, attending concerts and sporting events, and spending time with family and friends. Sheryl lives in Tulsa with her fiancé Paul, their daughter Scarlett, and their two dogs, Gunner and Boo.