HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – Teams from Madison County put their creativity to the test earlier this month in the Alabama Wildlife Federation’s Madison County Wild Game Cookoff.
The annual event was held April 5 at the Huntsville Botanical Garden. It’s a fundraiser for the AWF, the state’s oldest and largest non-profit conservation organization in Alabama. AWF works to promote the conservation and wise use of the state’s wildlife and natural resources to preserve it for future generations.
During the cookoff, judging teams sampled dishes including fish, fowl and game — all harvested within the United States. Dishes included duck, venison, alligator, crawfish, quail, flounder and more. Judges scored the various dishes on criteria of taste and creativity/originality.
This is one of several regional competitions around the state. The top cook team with the single highest scoring dish advances to the state competition. Congratulations to Cabela’s Camp Chefs, comprised of Justin South, Mark Craig, Scott Keelin, Larry Daniel and Jim Ruple for their high marks on Striper with Crawfish puppies. The team placed in all three of the categories, too — 1st place in fish, 3rd place in fowl, and 3rd place in game.
Geeks of Gastronomy won the coveted People’s Choice Award for their dish, ‘Sweet and Spicy Tacos de Venado.’ Venado is Spanish for deer – and the taco bowls contained venison and other toppings. Cory Waltz’s team had a ‘science theme’ – complete with white lab coats, protective eye goggles and colored liquids set up in beakers to add to the fun. He describes how they came up with their name.
“My partner and I both graduated from UA. We’ve always been ‘nerds’ and we’ve always enjoyed cooking food and we thought it suited us,” Waltz said with a grin.
The team prepared 320 servings for the crowd, Waltz estimated. They baked tortillas in muffin tins ahead of time, brushing on a butter and cinnamon mixture before baking. They assembled them at the cookoff and added the contents, which included 10 pounds of deer meat, sour cream, salsa and guacamole. He said they carved more than 40 avocados!
Educational activities for kids
There were also plenty of fun activities for children, including demonstrations by the Rise Raptor Project. Handlers Curt Cearley and Christina Turner brought along Sassy, a Red-tailed hawk and Maximus, a Eurasian Eagle-Owl. They talked with families about the birds’ characteristics, environments and food choices.
There was also a table with animal pelts for kids to touch, an area to brush up on fishing and casting skills and an archery booth. We asked 10-year-old Thomas Dinca of Madison if he was trying to shoot like Robin Hood. “No, like Katniss,” he said with a grin.