Fort Worth’s Beloved Renfro Foods Family Picks Up a Major Lifetime Achievement Award — 80-Plus Saucy Years in Cowtown Honored

Courtney Dabney | PaperCity Magazine

Most Fort Worth foodies are familiar with the many events put on during the Fort Worth Food + Wine Festival each spring. But did you know that the Fort Worth Food + Wine Foundation has provided more than $300,000 in scholarships to aspiring culinary students, equipment for local cooking schools and even relief for hard-hit hospitality workers over the years?

There’s a mission behind the food festival that allows fans to rub shoulders with restaurant world stars and graze their way through epic tasting tours. The Foundation is all about feeding potential and furthering the industry — and it’s doing things in Fort Worth all year long.

Take the recent dinner that kicked off the upcoming event season (the Fort Worth Food + Wine Festival will celebrate its 10th year in 2024). Lucky attendees arrived at the Fort Worth Club to passed hors d’oeuvres, champagne and cocktails before sitting down at tables set with no less than eight wine glasses. All for a lavish four course feast in honor of this year’s Walter F. Kaufmann Lifetime Achievement Award recipients — the Fort Worth Renfro Foods family. Yes, the ones behind the Mrs. Renfro’s sauces line.

This Far Out Feast featured food from the restaurants of chefs Felipe Armenta and Graham Elliot and their prolific Far OUT Hospitality. Fort Worth Club executive chef Tim Prefontaine welcomed the creative culinary duo into his own award-winning kitchen to prepare a once-in-a-lifetime meal showcasing the flavors and food of Maria’s Mexican Kitchen, Le Margot (which opened in June), F1 Smokehouse, (which recently opened along University) and the forthcoming Cowboy Prime (which is set for the Fort Worth Stockyards).

These busy chefs are full of ideas. In-between courses, they were in the back-of-house, sharing videos and photos with one another of inspirational dishes. Gleefully. Like little boys rummaging through a box of baseball cards back in the day. When I asked, “Is this pretty much how most of your conversations go?” their talented sous chef Sophia answered for them with “Yes, pretty much.”

The meal began with a perfectly balanced shrimp ceviche, served with marinated cucumbers and whipped avocado. The second course consisted of a potato and leek vichyssoise, garnished with brioche croutons and dotted with herb oil.

Two wines were paired with each course from rieslings and blancs to a Valpolicella region wine and Alexander Vineyards’ own Graves Rouge. For dessert, everyone received both dry champagne and an Italian dessert wine, all provided by Alexander Vineyards.

The main course was introduced by Elliot as one of the first dishes Armenta and he collaborated on. Their creative riff on beef stroganoff is one of the most popular dishes at their Cowboy Prime in Midland. Fort Worth got its first taste on this night and I was dazzled. A fork-tender braised short rib was plated atop truffle puree and roasted mushrooms with a few discs of orecchiette pasta basking in the glow.

The Renfro Family’s Fort Worth Impact
The Walter Kaufmann Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to the Renfro Family by Fort Worth Food + Wine Festival co-founder Russell Kirkpatrick.

The honor is bestowed for significant culinary achievements and the Renfro family certainly qualifies. The Renfros have not just overseen the success of their own Renfro Foods and its hot sauce empire Mrs. Renfro’s (which began in Fort Worth more than 80 years ago). They have also leveraged their expertise to champion and produce products for so many other local companies over the years. Giving a boost and a start to many culinary products.

The family’s ever-expanding line of salsas is not just Fort Worth famous either. Mrs. Renfro’s is a best-seller on store shelves in many states and has traveled worldwide.

The Renfo family joins some prestigious Fort Worth company. Previous recipients of the award have included beloved chef Walter Kaufman, chef Jon Bonnell, the late cooking school teacher Renie Stevens and the Anfin Family. All known almost as much for their philanthropy in Fort Worth as their trail-blazing culinary careers.

This Far Out Feast concluded with an elevated banana pudding from F-1 Smokehouse ― topped with vanilla bean spiked whipped cream, bruléed banana slices and Nila wafer crumbs.

Everyone left with full tummies and full hearts. The next Fort Worth Food + Wine Festival event will be Night Market at Panther Island on Thursday, November 30, the first time the foundation has hosted a full festival event in the fall. Tickets for that are available now.