The Walker County Cattlemen's Association brought back a favorite competition for city and county high schools Thursday — the beef cook-off.
Family and Consumer Science students from Jasper High, Dora High, Carbon Hill High, Oakman High and Cordova High schools gathered at the Viking Rock Cafe at Jasper High to showcase their best beef dishes and hopefully secure a spot in the state beef cook-off competition.
Walker County Center of Technology Director Chris McCullar, Jasper High Principal Jonathan Allen and Walker County Schools Interim Superintendent Dr. Joel Hagood served as judges for the competition, that featured dishes from a traditional burger to a beef empanada.
Grant Nichols, secretary for the Walker County Cattlemen's Association and Oakman High agriscience teacher, said the beef cook-off hasn't been held for two or three years. The Cattlemen decided to bring back the competition in honor of their friend and former Cattlemen president, Tyler McClendon, who passed away earlier this year. The beef cook-off also serves as a way for the Cattlemen to connect with area youth and celebrate October as beef month.
"That's a big promotional focus for the Cattlemen," Nichols said. "In our county, we may not have as many cows as other counties, but our county has a unique distinction."
Nichols said two area restaurants have received awards for the beef dishes they serve, meaning the county has always been a common name in the state's culinary industry.
Beef dishes cooked Thursday were anonymously served to the judges and were critiqued based on flavor intensity, appearance and overall taste on a scale of one to five.
In the senior division (grades 10 through 12), Carbon Hill High School earned first place, with Jasper High School placing second. Cordova High School placed first in the ninth-grade junior division, and Carbon Hill placed second.
"If you win, you're going to represent our county at the state competition. To me, I think that's good for your school, your community and your county," Nichols said. "Cooking something well enough to win and be recognized, I think that's a good thing."
Nichols said he is especially thankful to all the beef cook-off judges and to Jasper High culinary instructor Marulynn Lockett for hosting all participating students at the school on Thursday.
Each year, the beef cook-off will be held at a different school in Walker County.
The state beef cook-off competition will in April 2019.