Cattleman’s Classic cooks vie for the title of best ribeye
Story by ANDREA AGARDY
Seth Bowdoin knows a thing or two about cooking beef. As the owner of Seth’s Lake Fork Creek, a Quitman steak and seafood restaurant, Bowdoin prepares more than 100 ribeyes a week. And for the past several years, he’s put his grilling skills to the test at the Cattleman’s Classic & Ribeye Roundup.
Each October, the Northeast Texas Beef Improvement Organization, or NETBIO, invites the community to Sulphur Springs for the celebration of all things beef. The Cattleman’s Classic is another way for NETBIO to educate about the importance of beef — not just for local families working in the industry, but for the overall economy. “It is big business,” says Dwyatt Bell, a NETBIO board member and the nonprofit’s chief operating officer.
“Agriculture is really big in our area — the cow-calf part of the cattle industry in particular.” With a membership of about 900 beef producers, many in Hopkins County, NETBIO reaches out to everyone from fourth graders to cattle ranchers to support and inform producers, educate the public and build a positive reputation for Northeast Texas beef.
SIZZLING ON THE SQUARE
Bowdoin’s name is well known at the roundup. He’s taken home a prize every year since the event began in 2015. Bowdoin’s a two-time grand champion and was reserve champion — or, as he jokingly calls it, “first loser” — three times. “It’s a lot of fun,” Bowdoin says. “It’s really good for the restaurants because we get a lot of exposure. You’re able to talk to a lot of people. When everybody’s cooking, you can smell it from a mile away.”
The all-day outdoor event features educational presentations, many of which include local 4-Hers and FFA students. The cooking competitions wrap up in the afternoon before the steak dinner and concert. Taking the stage at this year’s roundup will be country duo The Swon Brothers.
Dinner tickets are $25 per person and include a potato, salad, drink and dessert, along with a ribeye, which a roundup contestant will cook. The rest of the activities are free. Proceeds from ticket sales help fund NETBIO’s scholarship program and education efforts. Bell recommends purchasing dinner tickets in advance since there will only be about 1,200 available.
FIRE UP THE GRILLS
The steak cook-off is split into two divisions — professional division and an open division. Cash prizes — and priceless bragging rights — are awarded to the top finishers in each grouping. “We’ve had people who’ve competed in steak contests all over Texas and the Southwest,” Bell says. “We’ve even had some who’ve competed outside the U.S. They all really like our event. They all comment on how professional and well run it is.”
While some cook-offs have adopted something of a festival atmosphere, with a variety of vendors selling everything from barbecue sauce to T-shirts, NETBIO has intentionally steered clear of that.
“That’s not the purpose of it,” Bell says. “The whole purpose is to promote the beef industry and to just give the community a day to enjoy. We try to promote patriotism, Christianity and having a good time. It’s just a fun day.”
The roundup is the only competition Bowdoin cooks in, and while he says there’s sometimes a bit of mild trash talking between competitors, it’s all in good fun. “We bicker back and forth, but I don’t think anybody up there is really doing it for the plaques and competition,” he says. “I know I’m not. I’ve been blessed by winning, but it’s more about being able to get your restaurant’s name out there.”
Bowdoin cooks his steaks at the roundup the same way he does at his restaurant. He wants people who’ve never tasted his food to get a sampling of what’s waiting for them on his menu. He uses a “wet bath” to season the meat while it cooks. “It’s made with beef stock, chicken stock and my steak seasoning,” he says. “We ladle it on as we’re cooking that steak, and that way, it does not dry out.
We don’t marinate our steaks. We use a dry rub on them, and we put it on as we’re putting them on the grill.” Each competitor prepares two steaks and chooses the best one to send to the judges who assess the meat anonymously — each entry gets a number, and no one knows who’s taking home the prizes until the announcement of the winning numbers.
The judges are beef industry experts, including a professor from the meat science division at Texas A&M, a professional food critic and representatives from the Texas Beef Council. “One thing that sets our event apart is the judges,” Bell says. Aspiring grill masters can get in on the action, too, with the kids’ hamburger cook-off and an appetizer competition. The latter prize goes to whoever creates the best accompaniment for a steak dinner. In 2019, that title went to Bowdoin.
In just a few years, the Cattleman’s Classic & Ribeye Roundup grew into an event many people in Hopkins County and beyond look forward to. And more guests are always welcome. “The Sulphur Springs downtown area is beautiful. Our city has done a great job of putting that together,” Bell says. “Time and time again, the city and other people associated with this event tell us that it’s their favorite and it’s the best. We hear people throughout the community talking about it. It’s a day that we try to make very enjoyable.”
Cattleman’s Classic & Ribeye Roundup
• Saturday, Oct. 2, at Celebration Plaza in Sulphur Springs
• Dinner tickets are $25 each and are available at texashnb.com.
• For the latest details on this year’s Cattleman’s Classic & Ribeye Roundup, check out the event on Facebook,