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H-E-B Awards ‘Quest For Texas Best’ Winners

Grand prize winner Skull & Cakebones.
Grand prize winner Skull & Cakebones.

H-E-B‘s Primo Picks Quest for Texas Best judges narrowed the field of 25 finalists to five winners on Friday at the Central Texas Food Bank.

Sascha Biesi and Yauss Berenji (Skull & Cakebones—Mocha Marmalade); Bridget and Will McCoy (Lorraine’s Original Mini Texas Pecan Cakes); Dennis Butterworth (WarPig BBQ For Use on Butts And Ribs Sauce); Adrian and Mariana Paredes (Tamale Addiction’ s Poblano and Muenster Cheese Organic Masa Tamales); and Cariño Cortez and Michael Cortez (La Familia Cortez Restaurants’ Mi Tierra Salsa Verde) took home a combined total of $90,000 in cash prizes along with prime space on H-E-B store shelves in 2018.

“As we complete the fourth year of this statewide competition, we continued to be impressed by the inventiveness, creativity and phenomenal resolve that our fellow Texans showcase,” said James Harris, director of diversity and inclusion and supplier diversity at H-E-B. “Although only five competitors walked away with a title and prize, Quest for Texas Best is a win for all Texans. Small businesses have the opportunity to grow with H-E-B, and our customers enjoy added variety and access to the best locally sourced products.”

Grand prize winner ($25,000 and featured placement as a Texas Best Primo Pick)
Skull & Cakebones—Mocha Marmalade
Sascha Biesi and Yauss Berenji, Austin
After Sascha Biesi discovered milk and eggs were the cause of her infant daughter’s persistent rash, she began a quest for delicious foods sans the animal products. Enlisting the help of Yauss Berenji, the two built Skull & Cakebones based on friendship, their families’ passion for food and a mission of making delicious desserts without animal products. Using the best local products on hand, Skull & Cakebones presents a truly Texas-strong dessert—Mocha Marmalade Chocolate layered with Cuvee Coffee frosting and topped with Cuvee infused chocolate pudding.

Two first-place winners ($20,000 each)
The Texas Pecan Cake Shop—Lorraine’s Original Mini Texas Pecan Cakes
Bridget and Will McCoy, Bertram
Like the Lone Star State, Bridget McCoy’s Lorraine’s Original Mini Texas Pecan Cakes are one of a kind. Baked in the iconic shape of Texas from a secret family recipe, it is a pecan lover’s dream. Made with 100 percent Texas products from local growers, loaded with pecans and held together with just enough flour and sugar, it delivers the wonderful flavor of Mom’s holiday baking that can be enjoyed on any occasion.

WarPig BBQ For Use on Butts And Ribs Sauce
Dennis Butterworth, Houston
Dennis Butterworth’s BBQ sauce, For Use on Butts And Ribs (F.U.B.A.R), is an elite sauce forged in the trenches of barbecue competition. This award-winning sauce was crafted by U.S. Army veterans to be the one and only sauce you need in your arsenal. Whether you’re a professional chef or a backyard grill commando, For Use on Butts And Ribs’ sweet, tangy flavor bridges the gap for all barbecue palates.

Second-place winner ($15,000)
Tamale Addiction’s Poblano & Muenster Cheese Organic Masa Tamales
Adrian and Mariana Paredes, Austin
Destiny called Adrian and Mariana Paredes in 2010. They answered and unknowingly created a new tamale standard and culture among aficionados. First entering the farmers’ market circuit with Mexican desserts, they redirected their efforts to tamales. Today, Tamale Addiction is known for being fresh, organic, local and delicious with five versions that include meat, vegetarian, vegan, banana leaf and sweet tamales. By listening to their customers’ demand for an at-home option, they found a way to share their destiny with all of Texas via a two-pack of organic masa tamales filled with strips of roasted poblano pepper, fresh red salsa made from chile de arbol, and melted muenster cheese.

Third-place Winner ($10,000)
La Familia Cortez Restaurants’ Mi Tierra Salsa Verde Salsa
Cariño Cortez and Michael Cortez, San Antonio
The family of Pedro Cortez—entrepreneur, restaurateur and savior of San Antonio’s Market Square—committed themselves to preserving the recipes that have been in the family since 1941, when the patriarch opened his first eatery, Jamaica No. 5, and eventually Mi Tierra. Over the years, Pedro’s sons and grandsons have combined traditional Mexican cooking techniques with the latest culinary advancements to safeguard Pedro’s process, ingredients and legacy. The family is intent on sharing this tasty legacy with customers near and far with Mi Tierra Salsa Verde—a secret mixture of oven-roasted tomatillos and a blend of spices that create a tangy salsa great for enchiladas and more.

The judges included Jeff Thomas, SVP and GM, Central Texas Region; Suzanne Wade, corporate communications officer; Jorge Elizondo, group VP, customer insights; Chef Scott Tompkins, senior recipe developer and technical food advisor; and Winell Herron, H-E-B group VP of public affairs, diversity and environmental affairs. Judging criteria included product quality, marketability and readiness for production as well as the makers’ suitability as retail suppliers.

The 2017 Quest for Texas Best competition drew 565 entries from more than 200 towns across the state. Through two qualifying rounds, H-E-B business development managers judged submissions on taste and flavor, customer appeal, value, uniqueness, market potential and differentiation from current products at most H-E-B stores.

Among the finalists were nine entrepreneurs from the Austin area; five from the San Antonio and West Texas areas; two from the Dallas area; eight from Houston and one from the Rio Grande Valley.

H-E-B Primo Picks invites customers to enjoy products that are unique, delicious and possibly new to their palates. As part of H-E-B’s commitment to providing local product options, H-E-B is the single largest retailer of the Go Texan program with 908 own brand items with the Go Texan watermark in stores throughout the Lone Star state. H-E-B operates more than 380 stores in Texas and Mexico.

About the author


Kristen Cloud

A former newspaper editor and publisher, she once enjoyed leisurely perusing the grocery store aisles but, since having a baby in 2016, she is now an enthusiastic click-and-collect shopper.

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