Restaurateurs, patrons celebrate East Texas' best at 29th annual event
Sherry Skrobinski, 66, of Tyler, celebrated her retirement at Harvey Convention Center in Tyler on Tuesday evening.
After 21 years working in finance, her last day at a downtown accounting firm was Wednesday and she decided to celebrate by going to Taste of Tyler with family and friends.
"I'm ecstatic," she said. "I kept laughing myself to sleep (last night) saying, 'I don't have to go to work tomorrow.' Until midnight when I started saying, 'I don't have to go to work today."
Martha Ramirez and Nataly Rincon serve up a chicken fajita at the Posado’s booth.
Ms. Skrobinski said each restaurant she tried was good, but with another half of the convention center to scope out, she said Clear Springs was her favorite.
"This is the best way to start retirement, to be with family and friends to enjoy Tyler's best restaurants," she said.
Participants were able to pick between 30 beer, wine and agricultural product vendors, while listening to local musical talent.
The popular event is in its 29th year, and is put on by the Tyler Sunrise Rotary Club and the East Texas Restaurant Association with its proceeds going to charity, said Bob Westbrook, who is both president of the restaurant association and president-elect for the Rotary Club.
Rob Gowin cuts a slice of lemon icebox pie at the Sadler’s Catering booth.
Restaurants donate the food and staff to man their booths, and the participant's entry fee is divided among two sponsoring entities. Last year $30,000 was raised.
Westbrook said the Tyler Sunrise Rotary Club uses its funds to maintain a fire alarm program. The organization partners with the Tyler Fire Department to purchase and install fire alarms for people who cannot afford them.
The rotary club also funds community projects, including upkeep of the signs at Rose Rudman Park. The club also rebuilt the dolphin fountain in Bergfield Park and helped the Bullard Rotary Club with their Bullard Kids Park last year.
The East Texas Restaurant Association uses its funds to maintain its Texas Prostart Culinary programs, which is in 15 East Texas high schools. Westbrook said each is given $1,000 to maintain a year-long program and about 1,500 students go through it annually.
As part of the restaurant association's mission, five of its culinary arts program students participated in a Cupcake Wars competition at the Taste of Tyler event.
Leona May, Tyler ISD retired culinary arts instructor, said LaPoynor, Wills Point, Chapel Hill, Union Grove and Whitehouse students participated. Each was judged on their booth's theme, cupcake presentation and taste.
"It's not only for fun, but it's to help them train to enter the restaurant industry if they would like or culinary school," Mrs. May said.
Entries included peanut butter and jelly cupcakes, some inspired by girl scout cookie favorites, key lime pie and devil's food cake, but the winner was LaPoynor ISD with a mocha chocolate fudge brownie cupcake topped with a mocha almond butter cream icing.
Although the winner won by two points, May said, there were no real losers as far as her taste buds were concerned.
Chief Cedric Fletcher, owner of Fat Catz Louisiana Kitchen and Zaza's Modern Italian Cuisine, said he was having as much fun as the patrons.
Fletcher said the evening provides an opportunity to meet and greet with other restaurant owners and with his patrons.