The results are in! After much deliberation, H-E-B’s Primo Picks Quest for Texas Best judges selected FOUR winners out of the top 25 finalists from across the Lone Star State, wrapping up the fifth annual event on Friday, August 10 at the Central Texas Food Bank. The winners, hailing from Austin and Houston, received a combined $70,000 in cash prizes and coveted space on H-E-B store shelves. In celebration of the contest’s fifth anniversary, the Grand Prize Winner also received keys to a brand-new Toyota Tundra.
“H-E-B Quest for Texas Best furthers our commitment to carrying a significant variety of outstanding Texas-made products, allowing us to grow and celebrate the diversity, creativity and ingenuity of Texans even more,” said James Harris, Director, Diversity & Inclusion and Supplier Diversity, H-E-B. “We continue to be impressed by the incredibly unique and innovative products from our participants and this fifth anniversary year was no exception. We congratulate our winners and commend all who participated.”
THE 2018 H-E-B PRIMO PICKS QUEST FOR TEXAS BEST WINNERS ARE:
Grand Prize Winner ($25,000, featured placement as a Texas Best Primo Pick, keys to a brand-new Toyota Tundra):
Kristen & Cody Fields
Frozen handheld empanadas
Mmmpanadas – Austin, TX
For the folks behind Mmmpanadas, the quest for the perfect empanada started in Costa Rica, when co-founder Cody Fields became obsessed with the hand-held delight. This passion continued, taking him throughout Central and South America. In 2008, he and his wife, Kristen, opened their food truck in Austin, crafting flavorful empanadas such as Argentinian Beef, Hatch Green Chile Chicken, Vegan Black Bean and BBQ Brisket. Today, they make more than 20 flavors of their artisan empanadas, which are free from additives, fillers, preservatives and trans fats. Available in two sizes, their pockets of love are cooked fresh from their food truck and can be found in the frozen section at some retailers in Austin.
First Place Winner ($20,000):
Chef Rey Inc. – Sugar Land, TX
Reynold Darthard, better known as Chef Rey, has been called one of Houston’s top culinary talents. After 15 years working a corporate job, the Texas A&M University graduate decided to pursue his passion of cooking, entering the Art Institute of Houston’s culinary program at the age of 37. Pulling from his culinary education and memories of cooking with his mother and grandmother, Chef Rey has used his flair for cuisine to create delectable cheesecakes. With seven delicious flavors, these sweet, creamy bites have rings of flaky crust, making a succulent dessert that’s smooth and velvety. Flavors include strawberry, raspberry, chocolate swirl and sweet potato. Chef Rey has authored multiple cook books and held roles as executive chef for professional athletes and sports teams, such as the Houston Astros and Houston Rockets.
Second Place Winner ($15,000):
Lucienne Duforets & Veronica Amaya
Bellefontaine – Houston, TX
Named after a small village in the French countryside, Bellefontaine makes ice cream using pure, clean ingredients. Originally from France, owner Lucienne Duforets is committed to using centuries-old traditions to create her French-style ice cream. Each batch is made from scratch with fresh milk straight from Texas farms, producing a soft smooth texture in every spoonful. With 10 rich flavors, many of the ingredients used are sourced locally and made in-house, including ribbons of chewy caramel used in the Salted Butter Caramel. Along with intense flavors such as Pistachio, Rose and Bananas Foster, Bellefontaine also has a line of dairy and gluten free sorbets: dark chocolate, mango & passion fruit, and coconut.
Third Place Winner ($10,000):
Pennymade – Austin, TX
Sometimes your harshest critics are those closest to you. For Tiffani Diorio, that tough pundit was her daughter, Penny. With a desire to raise her daughter with healthy treats, she began tweaking recipes to ensure every bite of food was tasty and nutritious while also appealing to a more sophisticated palate that appreciates homemade southern comfort food. Using a family recipe, this southern momma came up with a lineup of flavorful and flakey buttery biscuits, which are frozen, ready-to-bake and can go from freezer to table in 15 minutes. Pennymade biscuits are made from scratch with non-GMO, all-natural ingredients and available in multiple flavors, including Original, Hatch Chile Cheddar and Maple Bacon.
The judges included: Scott Mitchell, Senior Vice President, Fresh Departments; Bill Anderson, Senior Vice President, San Antonio Food/Drug Division; Jorge Elizondo, Group Vice President, Customer Insights; Chef Patrick Clark, Dean of the H-E-B Culinary Academy at H-E-B; and Winell Herron, H-E-B Group Vice-President of Public Affairs, Diversity and Environmental Affairs. The 2018 Quest for Texas Best competition drew more than 700 entries from nearly 140 cities and towns across the state. Through two qualifying rounds, submissions were judged on taste and flavor, customer appeal, value, uniqueness, market potential and differentiation from current products at most H-E-B stores.
The Quest for Texas Best competition is a signature program for H-E-B’s Primo Picks brand, which labels the best-in-store products that are all unique, delicious, and new. Since its inception in 2014, Quest for Texas Best has yielded more than 432 new products on H-E-B’s grocery, bakery, deli and market shelves across the state.
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 of its own brand items that include the GO TEXAN watermark in stores throughout the state.