If dishes like fresh, blackened speckled trout with a shrimp hollandaise sauce or succulent bacon-wrapped quail with a touch of brown sugar and cayenne pepper sound tasty to you, then mark your calendar for November 5 and make plans to attend the West Central Alabama Wild Game Cook-off hosted by Central Alabama Farmers Co-op in Selma.
The event kicks off at 6 p.m. and is sure to draw the best of both hunting and cooking enthusiasts. According to Tim Wood, general manager of Central Alabama Farmers Co-op, the contest is a preliminary to the Alabama Wildlife Federation (AWF) cook-off held each summer.
"There are about 17 regional cook-offs and the winners of each of those regions are invited to compete in the state competition held at AWF’s headquarters, Lanark, in Millbrook," Wood said.
This is the third or fourth year Central Alabama Farmers Co-op has hosted the event and they are honored to host the event. Wood added it’s a great opportunity to not only generate interest in AWF, but also to attract some new customers to the Co-op.
According to Wood, the region usually has about 10-15 teams who come in early in the afternoon the day of the competition to begin preparing their culinary masterpieces. But the event serves as much more than a chance to show off cooking techniques.
Perhaps the most important purpose of the wild game cook-offs is to show how Alabama hunters and fishermen make use of their harvests by properly preparing them into delectable dishes. The cook-offs also serve as an opportunity to attract new members to the AWF, to raise funds for conservation projects thru the Federation and last, but certainly not least, to provide a venue for fun and fellowship with members of the AWF.
Wood said, "It’s a great time of bringing people together and it’s a grass-roots organization raising funds for education about our natural resources and conservation for the next generation."
For the Central Alabama region, Wood said the event also serves as a source of excitement for the upcoming hunting season.
"I think our people like to do it before the season actually comes in," he said. "It’s a great time for people to get their minds set on hunting season and to come out and anticipate how they’re going to prepare their game."
The Cook-off is divided into three categories: Fish, Fowl and Game, each receiving First, Second and Third place awards. Each category’s first place dishes will be considered for the "Best Overall Award" selection and the overall winner will qualify for the AWF state-wide contest.
An additional award will be presented to the team with the best decorated cooking area based on its creativity, originality and effort. This competition category is titled "Best Presentation" award and will be judged separately from the Fish, Fowl and Game categories.
For cook teams who come to help feed guests, but aren’t necessarily interested in competing in the cook-off, there is a new category for competition called "pot luck." This category is just for fun and should include only those teams who do not intend to compete in any other category. The winners of "Pot Luck" will receive awards, but they will not be eligible for competition in the State Cook-Off.
Cook teams may arrive after noon and should set up grills in the store’s parking lot. The Cook-off welcomes guests at 6 p.m., but judging will begin at 5 p.m. According to Wood, since this is a regional competition, teams can enter a dish in each category. Teams are asked to provide bite-sized samples of their "vittles" for 75 to 100 guests.
Delicious food is just one aspect of the West Alabama Wild Game Cook-off. The fun-filled event also boasts a silent auction and raffle featuring products that will entice any outdoorsman. Whether they’re vying for hot items in the silent auction, enjoying delicious dishes or just catching up with old friends, guests will be serenaded by live music throughout the event.
Teams interested in competing should contact Central Alabama Farmers Co-op, (334) 874-9083, or Dr. Lee Youngblood, (334) 872-2355, for entry form and complete rules. To be eligible for competition, cook teams must pre-register. Teams receive 5 free tickets to the event and one complimentary AWF membership which includes a subscription to Alabama Wildlife magazine.
General admission tickets are $50 for two guests and include one AWF membership and magazine subscription. Call Central Alabama Farmers Co-op or Dr. Lee Youngblood for ticket information.
"This competition is all about fun, education of natural resources in the state of Alabama and conservation practices," Wood said. "We enjoy the fellowship most of all—that is the key to this region’s Wild Game Cook-off success."
Grace Smith is an associate editor for AFC Cooperative Farming News.