10/24/05 — Defending Stewfest champs to compete without chief cook

View Archive

Defending Stewfest champs to compete without chief cook

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on October 24, 2005 1:59 PM

ALBERTSON -- Jamie Grady and her dad keep their trophy for winning last year's Stewfest cook-off displayed on the counter at the R-Mart.

She said her dad, Jimmy Johnson, taught her how to cook the award-winning shrimp stew, and they cooked it together during the first Stewfest held last year to help raise money for the community's private library. But this year, he has a schedule conflict. The R-Mart Team will have to carry on without him.

The second annual Jamboree and Stewfest will be held on Saturday, Nov. 5, at the new Northeast Duplin Communities Library in the former Peary Davis home at the intersection of N.C. 903 and N.C. 111.

Check-in begins at 8 a.m., with judging at 10:45 a.m. No entry fee will be charged. Taste tests and the sale of hot dogs and soft drinks begin at 11:15 a.m., and entertainment begins at 1 p.m. An auction will be held at 3 p.m., and a quilt made by women at the nearby Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will be given away.

The event raises money for the library. Last year, the Stewfest rised more than $16,000.

Ms. Grady said her dad has to cook barbecued beef for his church in Kinston on the day of the Stewfest, but the team will still compete.

She said her dad loves to cook outdoors, and she describes his shrimp stew as "just plain good," something he has always fixed. It has become a family tradition.

Johnson has always cooked the shrimp stew for special occasions, but he has also been cooking deer, beef and fish stews outside. His wife, Ethel, does the indoor cooking. Her specialty is fresh vegetables, like string beans, butter beans and corn. Being a school teacher, she always spent her summers at the beach or in the garden.

There is no great secret to the goodness of her dad's shrimp stew. But Mrs. Grady said you do have to use the right amount of seasonings.

"It's delicious. We had some last weekend," she said. "I can cook it on the stove for a few people, but I have to have him use the big pot."

Mrs. Grady and her husband, Cale, bought the R-Mart in 2003. It seems forever that the R-Mart has been there the intersection of N.C. 111 and N.C. 903. Some of the 12 teams that cooked last year decorated a lot. The R-Mart team just had a table cloth and put the fried bacon out for people to sprinkle on top of their stew. It was hot outside, so they handed everybody a cold Pepsi.

"My daddy is the pro," Mrs. Grady said. "He's a very good teacher. But I wouldn't go up against him in a contest."