Del Rio native Mandi Ramirez’s passion for cooking started at young age. She spent many days in the kitchen learning from her mother, who taught her most of what she knows.
Some of her favorite dishes to make are enchiladas, pozole and pico de gallo – a dish popular around Del Rio.
“Growing up in Del Rio, we would always have pico de gallo for cook-outs or anything – you name it,” Ramirez said. “Pico de gallo was always going to be a staple.”
Ramirez began adding mango to her pico de gallo and it has won her a contest. The Del Rio Wal-Mart team lead is one of three winners of Wal-Mart’s #AssociateCookoffContest, a national cooking competition in which two million Wal-Mart employees were invited to submit comfort food or holiday-inspired recipes.
Ramirez said she was excited to win the contest. Event sponsor Fresh Cravings, a refrigerated salsa brand, awarded her with premium kitchen cookware and exclusive virtual cooking classes led by the contest’s judging panel.
The panel included plant-based cook chef Chloe Coscarelli, Texas-based restaurateur and Top Chef alum chef Tiffany Derry and “The Bacon Bible” co-author, New York City-based restaurateur chef Peter Sherman and Registered Dietician Mia Syn.
Syn said she liked Ramirez’s recipe because it was “bursting with flavor.” She added the recipe was also healthy and consumer friendly – a winning combination for Ramirez.
“I chose her dish because it was made with fresh, nutritious ingredients and is an approachable recipe that anyone can make at home with the produce from Wal-Mart,” Syn said.
Ramirez said participating in the contest has been rewarding. She said her cooking experiences she had with the contest’s top chefs took her out of her comfort zone because she cooked dishes she never before cooked. Ramirez added it was also a reward representing Wal-Mart of Del Rio.
A big reward for Ramirez was the reminder to always do her best.
“If you are going to do (something), do it 100 percent plus more. Don’t be scared of challenges,” Ramirez said. “Always push yourself, never limit yourself and believe in yourself.