State Fair of Texas

Rare behind-the-scenes look at Big Tex Choice Awards semi-finals judging

The State Fair of Texas is judging the Big Tex Choice Awards semi-finals this week, narrowing the competition down to 10 finalists.

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When you go to the State Fair of Texas, food is a big part of the experience. The 'Big Tex Choice Awards' can have a big influence on what you eat.

"It will change your business," Cody Hays of Texas Holy said. "It's a lot of fun, but I will tell you, people that understand it and get it know that it can change your trajectory."

Hays, a trained chef who used to work at a luxury hotel, took over his parents' business, Texas Holy, with his wife, Lauren.

"I was born into the fair business," Hays said. "It's pretty awesome to be a part of it."

This week the State Fair of Texas did something it hasn't done before; it allowed media in the 'Big Tex Choice Awards' judging room, where semi-finalist foods in both sweet and savory categories were being tasted and evaluated.

While we cannot reveal judges' names, we can tell you they are all State Fair employees.

'It needs to be creative and innovative, but still something really 'cravable,'" one judge said. "I gotta stop eating soon because there's a lot to eat today!"

"There's variety, a lot of different flavors individually, and then together it's just amazing," another judge said about another entry. "I'm gonna give that one a happy face!"

"The fact that a group of us get to decide what is going to be 'the best' is kind of empowering," one judge said. "Give me good seafood any day, and this is just perfect!"

"This will be our fifth time," Jerome Garza said standing next to his sister, Denise De La Cruz, who comes up with the family's food concepts.

The Garza family, which runs Deep Fried Love and has been at the State Fair for 40 years, has won the Big Tex Choice Awards three times in the past.

"So there's a lot of pressure," Garza said. "To win it, it's a sense of pride because we're introducing a great item that people love."

The semi-final judging ends Thursday.

Ten finalists will be chosen, 5 in the sweet category and 5 in the savory category.

The finals is a celebrity judging event in August.

The 'Big Tex Choice Awards' started in 2005. There are 3 awards given; Best Sweet, Best Savory, and Most Creative.

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