Sweet victory

2 Houston favorites take top prizes in grocery chain's search for Texas' best

2 Houston favorites take top prizes in grocery chain's contest

Rey Darthard HEB primo picks
Chef Rey Darthard celebrates his first place finish. Courtesy photo
Mmmpanadas Austin empanada
Austin's Mmmpanadas took the top prize of $25,000. Mmmpanadas/ Facebook
Bellefrontaine ice cream HEB Quest Texas Best
Houston's Bellefontaine earned second place. Courtesy photo
Rey Darthard HEB primo picks
Mmmpanadas Austin empanada
Bellefrontaine ice cream HEB Quest Texas Best

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 Houston companies made the cut. While the grand prize winner — which not only includes prime placement in the stores but a new Toyota Tundra and a $25,000 check — went to Austin's Mmmpanadas, first and second runner-up went to Houston-area businesses. 

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.

Also taking home a top prize 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.

Tiffani Diorio of Pennymade Foods rounded out the elite foursome. 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.

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.”