Food…glorious food!! Arkansas is home to some legendary restaurants, wonderful chefs, and amazing, tasty fare. And although the state has all varieties of halls of fame, it wasn’t until 2016 that the Department of Arkansas Heritage decided there needed to be an Arkansas Food Hall of Fame. Rightly so…and about time!
The Arkansas Food Hall of Fame was launched by the Department of Arkansas Heritage in September to recognize Arkansas’s legendary restaurants, proprietors and food-themed events across the state. Nominations were accepted from the public in four categories: Food Hall of Fame, Proprietor of the Year, Food-Themed Event and People’s Choice. A 12-person committee chose the finalists in each category and the winners were announced at a reception and induction ceremony at Ron Robinson Theater in Little Rock on February 28.
The public was invited to submit nominees in four categories:
- Arkansas Food Hall of Fame – A nomination period is open to the public annually. Final selection will be by a blue-ribbon panel of judges selected by the Arkansas Food Hall of Fame Committee. Admittance into the Arkansas Food Hall of Fame will be a triumphant recognition of those long-standing restaurants that have also become legendary attractions in the Natural State. These are the places with the dishes we crave and will drive hours, if need be, just to take a bite. Eligible restaurants must be owned and operated in Arkansas, and have been in business for at least 25 years. National chain restaurants need not apply. Each year, three honorees will be inducted.
- Proprietor of the Year – Nominations from the public are welcome each year. Final selection will be by a panel of judges selected by the committee. This award is to be presented annually, and is designed to honor a chef, cook and/or restaurant owner in Arkansas who has made significant achievements in the food industry. To be eligible, the candidate’s restaurant must be owned in Arkansas and have been in operation in the state for at least one year. Again, national chains are not eligible.
- Food-Themed Event – As with the other categories, public nominations are encouraged. Final selection of the honoree will be made by a jury chosen by the Arkansas Food Hall of Fame Committee. This annual award was developed to honor one of the many community food-themed events or festivals that make our state a great place to live. These events attract tourists and neighbors alike and serve up as much fun and hospitality as they do their signature foods. To be eligible, the event/festival must be held annually in Arkansas, and it must have been in existence for five years or more.
- People’s Choice – This tasty award is truly in the hands of Arkansans, and lives up to our state motto: Regnat Populus (The People Rule). Individuals may submit their favorite Arkansas restaurant or food truck, and the people will determine the winner. To be eligible, nominees must be Arkansas-owned and operated, and have been in business for at least one year. National chains, again, are not considered.
The 2017 Arkansas Food Hall of Fame winners were:
People’s Choice: Grotto Wood Fired Grill and Wine Cave in Eureka Springs (Carroll County)
Food-Themed Event: Cave City Watermelon Festival in Cave City (Sharp County)
Proprietor of the Year: Paul Bash, Ed Moore, Louis Petit and Denis Seyer (Continental Cuisine partnership)
Congratulations to all the nominees and the winners…and thanks for delighting our palates and making our taste buds sing!! To learn more about the Arkansas Food Hall of Fame, click here.