Even before Rachael Dodson owned Downtown Diner in Jefferson City, she was known for her exceptional pies. Now, she and her husband, Dan, are gaining recognition for something that's not on the diner's menu: guacamole.
They were the heart of a six-person team in February that won their division and got second place overall among 26 entrants in the 15th annual Guacamole Bowl in San Diego.
"I like to brag that I'm an award-winning, untrained chef," said Dan Dodson, a local criminal defense attorney.
It was their first attempt at making competition guacamole. Meanwhile the overall winner, Hot Guac Cops, have five previous wins.
The public paid $8 to sample the different guacamoles and voted on the winners. Proceeds from the contest benefited Sports for Exceptional Athletes, an organization similar to Special Olympics.
The Dodsons' team was named Rachael Dodson's Missouri River Tavern — a fictitious tavern with a food that's not on the menu.
However, if you were lucky enough to visit Downtown Diner over the weekend, you likely got a taste of the winning recipe. The restaurant gave away generous free samples on Saturday and Sunday.
Rachael Dodson recently sold Downtown Diner to Corey Eikermann, but she still works at the restaurant.
During a Sunday interview with the News Tribune at the restaurant, two different customers interrupted Dan Dodson to tell him how much they liked his guacamole.
He created his award-winning guacamole years ago through experimentation after realizing that a stepdaughter of his couldn't eat onions.
Recipes for guacamole are fairly simple, and they don't typically vary too radically. It's typically made with avocados, tomatoes, jalapeos, limes and/or lemons, cilantro, salt, pepper and onions.
Dan Dodson said he substituted shallots, leaks and fresh garlic for the onions. He came up with a concoction that's creamy and flavorful with a hint of heat. For the past 12-15 years, he's tweaked the ratios of the ingredients, but kept the basic recipe the same.
"Somehow, it's almost magical," he said. "Because that's not really that much different than any other guacamole that you've ever had, but somehow it's just good enough to do that well" in a contest.
White eating breakfast at Downtown Diner on Sunday, Jerry Knollmeyer said he's not a big fan of guacamole, but liked this version. "This has a good flavor to it," he said.
Rachael Dodson helped with the making and serving of the guacamole samples during the contest. She was surprised at their win. "(Dan) expected it; I did not," she said with a laugh. "I said, 'No, we're not going to win.' I tasted a lot of that guacamole (in the contest) and it was all good."
Dan Dodson wasn't certain whether he and his wife would reunite their team to compete again next year.
"I don't know if we want to go back. It's a lot of work," Dodson said. "But we'll probably take one more shot at it."