A Dallas-based restaurant-quality barbecue marinade maker gained a little extra pizzazz by winning third place in this year’s H‑E‑B Quest for Texas Best contest. Smokey John’s Bar-B-Que tied for third place in the contest, winning a $10,000 prize and the chance to have his bbq rub sold in HEB stores.
The directory Texas Best Contest Quest seeks to find the best made-in-Texas food products, with top winners being sold at HEB grocery stores across the state. Five winning brands, from over 500 entries, were announced on Wednesday, August 24.
Brent and Juan Reaves, brothers who own Smokey John’s, say HEB recognition means their father’s dream has come true. Their father founded Smokey John’s barbecue, originally known as Big John’s, in 1976.
“He always believed he had a quality product, but he didn’t live to see it validated,” explain the Reaves brothers. “HEB who believed in us today, it was really them who believed in our father. And today, we are so proud that he has been validated by a distribution giant.
The brothers say some of the prize money will be shared with company employees at their West Mockingbird Lane restaurant and caterer. The rest will go to product marketing and retail expansion.
Smokey John’s is tied for third place with Guthrie Burnett Rancheswho produces Four Sixes Ranch Chuck Wagon Chili Mix.
Claiming the $25,000 HEB competition grand prize was based in McAllen I love Chamoywhich makes a sugar-free version of the Sweet, Hot, and Spicy Mexican Sauce.
Designer Annie Leal “has made it her mission to make this traditional Mexican candy staple more accessible to people with different dietary needs,” following her father’s diagnosis of diabetes, the The HEB website says.
Grabbing first place (not the same as grand prize) was love and cookies, a frozen gourmet cookie dough maker based in Lakeway (a suburb of Austin). The company received $20,000 as the first place winner.
Ashley Cameron founded Love & Cookies in 2019 after her 5-year-old son was diagnosed with Kawasaki disease, a common heart condition in children. After returning home from a stay at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston, all his son wanted to do was “bake cookies with mom.”
After this experience, Cameron continued to bake cookies, sharing them with friends and family. She then opened a pastry shop and sold 14 gourmet flavors of cookies. She followed that up by introducing a range of four varieties of frozen gourmet cookie dough.
Reacting to HEB’s win, Cameron said a portion of the proceeds will be donated to the Kawasaki Kids Foundation and the rest will be invested in Love & Cookies. “We look forward to sharing our product with the rest of Texas,” Cameron said.
To complete the list is based in Houston Zwita, which produces harissa, a traditional Mediterranean chili sauce originating in Tunisia. The owners of the company, Karim and Mansour Arem, win $15,000 for their second place.
“This is a monumental achievement for us as it confirms that there is indeed interest in our Tunisian stories and culture,” the Arem brothers say. “It is also a testament to the multicultural richness of our beautiful state and the fact that there is more to being Texan than just one thing. We are honored to have HEB wholeheartedly supporting us in our mission to preserve our Tunisian ancestry by helping us to share it with our fellow Texans.
The Arems say their prize money will be used for marketing and publicity campaigns.
“Every year we’re amazed by the submissions,” James Harris, senior director of diversity and inclusion and supplier diversity at HEB, based in San Antonio, says of Quest for Texas Best. “The creativity, passion and determination are truly impressive and inspiring.”