Some cooks in a long-running Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo fundraiser were disappointed this week after learning they couldn’t participate because of restrictions on serving food prepared in private homes to the public.
The Ghosts and Goblins Who Cook event, set for 7 p.m. today, has raised money for the rodeo’s scholarship fund for more than 15 years, participants said.
Attendees buy tickets to sample dishes from local chefs, including restaurants, caterers and private individuals.
This year, event organizers had to turn away some participants after learning of Galveston County Health District regulations that food served to the public in a food service establishment can’t be prepared in a private home or by an unlicensed food manufacturer.
Temporary food booths, such as those to be set up for Friday’s event at the Johnnie Arolfo Civic Center in League City, are considered food service establishments, district Director of Communications Ashley Tompkins said.
Rick Wade has cooked dishes for the fundraiser for years and learned Monday he couldn’t continue the tradition this year, he said.
“I’m not happy about it,” Wade said. “It’s irritating. It’s a feel-good event. It’s for a good cause.”
Wade has won awards for his dishes and was planning to make chili for this year’s event, he said.
The rules prohibiting the public serving of food prepared in private homes fall under Texas Food Establishment Rules, Tompkins said.
Both Galveston and Harris counties comply with these rules.
The Galveston district first heard about the event earlier this month when an application for 35 booths came in, Tompkins said. It was then the agency learned some booth operators planned to serve food cooked in private homes, she said.
“All food served at an event like this must be prepared in an approved kitchen or on site,” Tompkins said.
The event will still go on, organizers said.
“While Galveston County Health District’s food permitting requirements will affect some vendors’ ability to participate, more than 20 local chefs will be able to showcase their culinary skills,” rodeo officials said in a statement.
The food will come from restaurants, caterers and food trucks, organizers said.
The event, organized by one of about 108 subcommittees of the Houston rodeo, originally advertised more than 40 local chefs, according to the event’s Eventbrite page.
This is the second year the event has been held at the Johnnie Arolfo Civic Center, 400 W. Walker St. The event was previously held in the Clear Lake area.
The health district had no record of the event permitted through its office in the past, Tompkins said.
The office registers about 1,600 temporary food service operations every year, she said.
The civic center does have a kitchen, but it is impractical to use, Wade said.
“We don’t have access to it and how are you going to get 16 guys in there who want to cook day-of?” Wade said.
The event participants could still bring food cooked from home if it was served only to judges, such as in a competition, Tompkins said.