11/06/05 — Vegetable and ham soup nets team Stewfest prize

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Vegetable and ham soup nets team Stewfest prize

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on November 6, 2005 2:00 AM

ALBERTSON -- The Rev. Johnny Pickett won first place in the cooking competition Saturday at the second annual Jamboree and Stewfest in Albertson.

The winning entry was an old fashioned homemade vegetable soup made with fresh homegrown vegetables and country ham.

"It's good, too," Pickett said shortly before the judges came around to his team's table to test his concoction. "The recipe is from my grandma. It's very old timey."

Pickett is pastor of Pleasant View Presbyterian Church, and several of his members are on the Albertson Library Board, which sponsored the benefit to raise money for the library, which board members said is nearly ready to open its doors.

About 15 teams competed for the honor of "Best Stew." Judging was based on cleanliness, product quality and showmanship.

Showmanship helped earn the Albertson Ruritan Club Best in Show honors.

Helping Pickett with his stew were Caffie Williams, Gayle Bostic and Albert Sauls, all of whom work with him at the Duplin County Department of Social Services in Kenansville.

Second place went to the R-Mart team, which won first place last year. Third place went to the Grady Transport team, which made a shrimp and crab stew.

More teams entered the contest than a year ago. Among the new teams was the Albertson Fire Department, whose volunteers made a spicy hot firehouse chili. The volunteers are mostly farmers, said Lt. Billy Ray Daniels, and were in the fields last summer when the first stewfest was held, and therefore unable to participate.

Another first-time entry featured cooks from the annual Albertson Fox Hunt, which is held in February. Fish stew made with rock caught on Kerr Lake was the entry of Braxton and Ramona Grady. They said they catch rock fish at their place on Kerr Lake in Virginia, freeze the fish in milk cartons filled with water, date them and write on the cartons the kind of fish that is inside.

Choosing a winner was difficult, said state Rep. Stephen LaRoque, who helped judge.

"It was all fantastic. I commend all the cooks. It's an honor to be here to taste it, and I look forward to next year," LaRoque said.

Fellow judge and extension agent Trudy Smith said she was particularly impressed with the variety of stews. They included seafood-based stews, surf and turf and corn chowder.