Soul Food Cook-Off
Comporium Pioneers participated in the 5th Annual Soul Food Cook-off and Fundraiser hosted by the University of South Carolina Lancaster. All proceeds went to support USCL’s Emergency Textbook Fund which helps students afford textbooks. Assembled teams from businesses and organizations in the area came up with an authentic “soul food” menu and presentation theme to compete against each other in the event. Guests paid $10 for admission or $12 for takeout and had the opportunity to sample each team’s menu items. Food was served in individual cups labeled with the team name. Each person was given a ballot to vote for their favorites in the following categories: Best Main Dish, Best Vegetable Dish (Cabbage/Greens), Best Vegetable Dish (Beans/Peas/Corn), Best Side Dish (Macaroni and Cheese), Best Side Dish (Casserole), Best Side Dish (Salad/Slaw), Best Side Dish (Bread), Best Dessert, Best Theme, and Most Authentic Soul Food Menu. Awards were presented immediately following the event with trophies presented to the winners.
Our Comporium Pioneers team, led by Chef Jerry Baker, came up with a menu which featured fried catfish with Cajun tarter sauce, hushpuppies, slaw, baked beans, and banana pudding. The theme was a 50’s style diner called Digger’s Diner, named after Comporium’s local CN2 news canine mascot Digger. A lot of planning and preparation went into both our menu and presentation. Once the menu was finalized, we made a shopping list of all the ingredients needed to prepare each dish. Our team made a shopping trip to gather the items, except for the catfish which was purchased from a local fisherman. The handy men of our team built a display for our Digger’s Diner sign. The creative women of our team gathered and created items to make our presentation and tables stand out against the competition. Teams were allowed to set up their area at USCL the day before the cook-off. We also met the night before the event to complete as much of the preparation work as possible. This preparation included cutting up vegetables and cooking bacon for the beans, mixing the beans, making the slaw and making the Cajun tarter sauce. Tammie White made the banana pudding from her personal recipe that is a favorite among her family, friends, and coworkers. On the day of the event, we had to finish setting up, cook the fish and hushpuppies, and heat the baked beans. Each of us wore t-shirts with our team logo, aprons, and scarves to go along with our 50’s theme.
All of our menu items were a huge success and we received many compliments. We also received several awards: 1st Place for Best Side Dish-Bread, 2nd Place for Best Main Dish, 2nd Place for Best Vegetable Dish, and 2nd Place for Best Theme and Presentation. The event was a lot of fun and we were happy to help support our University of South Carolina Lancaster campus and their emergency textbook fund!