Sam’s Town Shreveport Wins First Place at Local Cooking Classic

It was only a glimpse into all that the experienced culinary staff at Sam’s Town Hotel and Casino, Shreveport can do. And it was more than enough for hundreds of happy diners who were able to get a taste of the sumptuous dish that took first place at one of the top food fundraisers in Northwest Louisiana.

Sam’s Town Shreveport participated in the Southern University Foundation’s 20th Annual Gentlemen’s Cooking Classic in early June and captured first place with its Braised Short Ribs with Stone Mountain Grits dish.  More than 700 people lined up, many more than once, to get a taste of Executive Chef Henry Rodriquez’s scintillating dish.

“I love braising,” said Rodriguez. “This particular cooking method is one of the first things I learned as a child from my grandma.”

The competition at this event is fierce, with chefs planning long in advance what they will prepare to wow the guests and judges. The Gentlemen’s Cooking Classic attracted more than 2,000 food lovers this year. It boasts the largest number of participating chefs for a Northwest Louisiana annual food event. Through the efforts of the participating chefs, corporate sponsors and community support, the Foundation has contributed more than $550,000 in scholarships for the purpose of educating students in the Shreveport – Bossier area as well as surrounding areas.

The inspiration for this year’s first place dish stemmed from past winning dishes.

“People who have attended this event in the past told me that a lot of chefs make shrimp and grits,” said Rodriguez. “I decided to take that concept and elevate it for those attending this year’s event.”

The longtime chef is an avid advocate for cooking with local products. The recipe featured Flying Tiger IPA, a beer brewed in Monroe, La., which is just a short drive from the Sam’s Town property. The grits were from a city in Mississippi that is only two hours from the destination.

“I think that not only made our dish unique, but when I was describing the dish at the event the guests really liked that it was made with local products,” said Rodriguez.

Rodriguez credits his team for bringing home the win. Joining the executive chef were Stan Varner, Director of Sales, Miranda Small, Convention Services Manager and Amanda Walker, Sales Manager. 

“I was extremely proud,” he said. “To represent our property in community events like this makes all the difference to me and our team members.”

The cook-off and other community socials are an opportunity, Rodriguez said, to teach and create strong bonds among team members.

“Our team was very happy to teach the attendees, and each other, new things,” he said. “Attendees also enjoyed that we went around handing samples of the dish and asking for feedback. They kept coming back to ask if they could have some more!”