Sweet victory

2 Austin foodie favorites named best in Texas by popular grocery chain

2 Austin foodie favorites named best in Texas by popular grocery chain

Mmmpanadas Austin empanada
Kristen and Cody Fields react to winning the grand prize in H-E-B's Primo Picks Quest for Texas Best. Mmmpanadas/ Facebook

Ever wonder how your favorite local products make it to the shelves of H-E-B? It’s not easy. As part of the grocery giant’s Primo Picks Quest for Texas Best, entrepreneurs must stand out from a field of more than 700 entries before making it to the final round, a fiercely competitive event where budding food magnates are grilled nonstop by judges for two days.

On August 10, the San Antonio-based grocer announced the winners of this year's competition — and two Austin companies made the cut. The grand prize, which not only includes prime placement in the stores but a new Toyota Tundra and a $25,000 check, went to Kristen and Cody Fields from Mmmpanadas, whose handheld pies have been a favorite of Austinites since the couple first launched their food truck in 2008.

Also taking home a top prize was Tiffani Diorio of Pennymade Foods. Scoring a third place nod and $10,000, Diorio won for her frozen biscuits, a ready-made treat using all-natural, non-GMO ingredients in a family recipe. Named after her daughter (and discerning critic), Penny, the biscuits are available in flavors like hatch chili cheddar and maple bacon.

The other two winners came from the Houston area. The first place nod went to Sugar Land’s Reynold Darthard’s line of Chef Rey's cheesecakes. The longtime chef, who started a second career by entering the Art Institute of Houston’s culinary program at 37, got a sweet $20,000 prize for his strawberry, raspberry, chocolate swirl, and sweet potato treats.

Rounding out the elite foursome were Lucienne Duforets and Veronica Amaya of Houston, who impressed the judges with their Bellefontaine ice creams. The handmade line, which uses local ingredients and Texas dairy, froze out the competition to nab the $15,000 check.

In all, the fifth anniversary competition awarded $70,000 to Texas food artisans and continued H-E-B’s dedication to stocking Lone Star State foods. The chain is the single largest retailer under the Texas Department of Agriculture’s Go Texan program, with 908 brand items sporting the campaign’s distinctive watermark.

“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, H-E-B’s director of diversity, inclusion, and supplier diversity, in a release. “We continue to be impressed by the incredibly unique and innovative products from our participants.”