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SHALLOTTE—Though the origin of Brunswick stew may be up for discussion, it’s no question who makes it best in Brunswick County.
Barbara Bush and Cameron Bush representing WHQR, Friends of Public Radio, were voted the best in Saturday’s first-ever Brunswick Stew Cook-off, hosted by the Brunswick County Chamber of Commerce.
Barbara Bush said she has been making Brunswick stew for her church for many years and sells between 150-200 quarts every year. But no matter how often she makes it, each stew is a little different.
“Every time we make it, we make it even better,” she said.
Barbara Bush credits her secret ingredient for giving her stew the one-of-a-kind taste.
“I don’t think anybody else has it,” she said. “But we’re not telling. Because next year, they won’t have it, either.”
Twenty teams did the cooking Saturday, and nearly 1,000 people came out and did the tasting, Megan Masser, event coordinator, said.
“I think that the event went very, very well,” she said. “For the first year, I think it was just a great kickoff. The contestants were all very happy. Next year, we hope to make it bigger and better.”
District attorney Rex Gore helped determine the verdict Saturday, as he served as one of the official judges. Chief deputy Charlie Miller and Bryan Keith of 103.7 The Bone radio also were among the judges.
Gore said he was “looking for what appeals for me taste-wise.”
Brunswick stew should have some texture, but not too much, he said.
“I’m not real fond of having to chew a lot to get my flavor.”
Alan Hensley, a Brunswick County local, said the stew should be hearty.
“I’d rather have it really chunky and meaty, not so watery,” he said.
Texture or not, some just like it hot.
“I’m waiting till my head sweats,” Gore said. “If my head doesn’t sweat, it’s not hot enough.”
Doug Terhune has been making Brunswick stew for more than 30 years, after he got his recipe from a friend who lived in Memphis, Tenn. Over the years, he’s perfected it with four main ingredients—molasses, Tabasco sauce, white wine vinegar and barbecue sauce.
“It’s zesty,” he said. “It’s so different than anybody else’s here because it’s zesty. And that’s why I’m going to win this competition.”
Diane and Phil Sloat were big fans of Terhune’s stew after each tasted a sample.
“I think it’s very good,” Diane Sloat said. “It’s very tasty.”
“It goes down very easy,” Phil Sloat added.
Finch Holt was serving up his family’s secret stew on Saturday, a recipe that has been in his family for more than 15 years. The secret to Brunswick stew is in the cooking, Holt said.
“You can’t cook it too fast,” he said. “Cook it slower until it all mixes together. Never stop stirring.”
David and Nancy Crawford of Crawdad BBQ were cooking up an old family secret on Saturday. The two participate in many barbecue competitions throughout the region but were competing with their stew for the first time.
“It has a little bit of sweetness and a little bit of zing at the end,” David Crawford said.
Jennifer Kirkley and Julie Almedia of Calabash Deli were competing with their own recipe but said the response was so good, it will most likely end up on the deli’s menu.
“Now they’ll know where to get it,” Kirkley said.
Amanda Whitaker from The Beach House Café had the same thought.
“I think it’s going to turn into a special,” she said.
Fran Harris got her recipe while living in Savannah, Ga., but her friends say Brunswick County residents always make it best.
“We’re local,” Judy Clayton said. “We know it’s good.”
Overall Winner: WHQR, Friends of Public Radio, Inc.
Best Media: WHQR, Friends of Public Radio, Inc.
Best Restaurant: Miracle Temple
Best Individual: Bob Williford of Brasfield & Gorrie
People’s Choice Best Stew: Bob Williford
People’s Choice Best Booth Presentation: Finch Holt