Bakers from across East Texas filled the Tyler Senior Center on Saturday with the sweet aroma of chocolate during the eighth annual Best Chocolate Dessert Contest, sponsored by the Smith County Extension Education Association and the Tyler Parks and Recreation Department.
“Everyone loves chocolate,” said Cheryl Davis, chairwoman of the education association. “We have some of the best cooks in the world in our organization. Everyone just brings it.”
Davis said the event is a tool to get community members interested in the education association.
Penny Hunter, second vice chairperson of the county’s extension education association, started the contest eight years ago.
“It’s about bragging rights,” Hunter said. “It’s about the best chocolate dessert in East Texas. And if someone doesn’t enter, then they can’t brag they have the best chocolate dessert.”
Mary Alice Cowart, president of the Dixie Club and member of the service, entered the contest with a recipe for chocolate drop cookies that her son, who died at an early age, wrote down at school when he was in the seventh grade.
“It’s written in notebook paper; I still have it,” she said. “He would have been 60 (years old) now.”
Several community members, including Rodd Moffett, volunteer coordinator for local non-profit group People Attempting to Help, were judges for the event.
Moffett was among those being treated like royalty, sitting in a room judging chocolate treats until the winners were announced.
“It was a no-brainer,” he said about being asked to judge the chocolate contest. “It was an easy decision.”
Moffett said he looked for treats that were light and palatable.
“It depends what the dessert is,” he said. “You want a good balance with whatever you have.”
Smith County Sheriff’s Lt. Tony Dana has been judging the contest for the past five years, he said.
Dana said he looks for taste, appearance and presentability.
“But mainly, I look at the taste,” he said. “I like mine not too sweet but with a little chocolate flavor, that’s my favorite.”
While judges were in their chambers, culinary instructor Leslie Rasco, who teaches culinary classes at Robert E. Lee High School, treated contestants and other attendees to a chocolate baking demonstration.
She displayed how to bake several desserts, including Oreo balls.
Attendees also won door prizes and raffles with gifts that were donated by local businesses.