PORT ISABEL — “Bacon-wrapped stuffed shrimp with jalapeño and cream cheese,” announced Jordan Nall.
She was introducing a new recipe from Señor Donkey on South Padre Island where she works as a hostess.
The restaurant had sent one of 15 teams to compete in the 24th Annual World’s Championship Shrimp Cook-Off held yesterday at Sutherland’s Express store in Port Isabel.
Everyone was especially excited by the presence of three film crews creating a segment for the Food Network.
The crew from Pink Sneakers Productions had been hired to produce the segment for the popular show.
This was a first for the cook-off, said Betty Wells, director of the Port Isabel Chamber of Commerce, which presented the festival.
“We were excited when they called and said they wanted to do a show for the Food Network,” Wells said.
Everyone else seemed excited, too. Visitors packed the parking lot sampling shrimp recipes from Dirty Al’s, Señor Donkey, H-E-B and other businesses. They’d journeyed from all parts of the Valley.
Camera crews busily filmed the preparation and tasting of various culinary concoctions.
“Raise it up,” said a cameraman to Casey Barfield, manager of White Sands Restaurant and Bar.
She and other employees of the Port Isabel restaurant were serving samples of two shrimp prepared with cream cheese, jalapeño and bacon. A toothpick held them together over a rice pilaf.
She smiled as the cameraman from Pink Sneakers Productions took close-up footage of the tantalizing dish, excited by the idea she and the restaurant might appear on the Food Network.
“This is our first time in the shrimp festival and we are being filmed,” Barfield said as she sold another sample. While for many it was a main course, it’s actually an appetizer on the menu.
“That’s going to be $6,” she said as she sold two more.
Pink Sneakers Productions conducts extensive research to generate ideas for submission to the Food Network, said April Vargas, post production supervisor.
“The Food Network hires us to do their shows,” she said.
Pink Sneakers has been traveling the country recently filming different food festivals. They’ve already filmed a mac and cheese festival and a pizza festival, and the Food Network also accepted the idea for the shrimp festival.
“Shrimp has so many different dishes,” she said as a band played “Pretty Woman.”
She speculated the show might air in January but couldn’t say for sure.
The festival had provided plenty of fodder for an interesting show, said Adrian Davila, supervising producer.
“We are having a lot of fun,” said Davila. “Some are using Malibu rum in their recipes.”
He stopped to consider before adding, “I don’t think I have seen anything crazy.”
He also referred to the production crew’s trips to various venues throughout the country filming segments for the Food Network. He was enjoying his time in the Port Isabel, more specifically South Padre.
“I used to come here with my family,” he said. “It’s been 10 years. It’s really cool.”
Meanwhile, visitors continued to taste the goods.
Visitors sampled shrimp saturated with bacon, cilantro and other flavors while a live band played “Cupid, Draw Back your Bow…” A woman stood with friends and washed it all down with a Michelob while enjoying the afternoon.
“This is the first time we moved it from Sunday to Saturday,” Wells said.
“We thought there would be more traffic through the area,” she said. “I think we have seen more.”
“It’s the first time I’ve ever been here,” said Sandy Melville, 75, who’d traveled from Alamo.
“It’s been great,” she continued. “I think I like the coconut shrimp best.”
John Harris served a recipe from a stand set up by H-E-B.
“We are excited to be in this, just being in the Food Network,” he said.