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Cartwright wins cornbread contest

Just call Gordie Cartwright the “Cornbread King” – after all, he did bring home the national cornbread title this weekend.

Cartwight, a fourth grader at Straughn Elementary School, traveled to South Pittsburg, Tenn., Friday as one of 10 national finalists in the annual 4-H cook off, open only to fourth graders. Saturday, his “sweet potato cornbread” was chosen as the best in the nation.

“And they all smelled so good,” Cartwright said of the cornbreads made by his fellow contestants. “There was one called ‘down home chili pie’ and another called ‘streusel cornbread,’ and another person made an upside down pizza. I didn’t get to taste any of them. That was the only bad part.”

To pay for the trip, Cartwright sold slices of his now nationally recognized cornbread outside of Tractor Supply Co. He, his parents Rick and Christy, and older sister Ginnee, spent three days total in Tennessee. Severe weather even made its way through Tennessee – causing the competition to be moved from outdoors to a nearby high school, Cartwright said.

“We did the whole process from mixing to baking to cutting – all right in front of the judges,” he said. “I was pretty nervous, but then I thought about it and realized it wasn’t that big of a deal. I just did it.”

Cartwright said once the awards process begun, he was again filled with feelings of apprehension.

“They called it out from third place up,” he said. “When they got to first place and my name hadn’t been called, my heart just sunk. Then they called my name, and I freaked out, but I did it with class. I walked up there and got my award.”

“We’re just so proud of him,” Rick Cartwright said.

For his win, Cartwright received a $400 cash prize and a gift bag filled with Lodge cast iron cookware and Martha White products.

“Plus, I got the honor of winning,” he said.

Cartwright is the first person in Alabama to bring home the national honor.

He will be featured today at 9 a.m. on the “Ann Varnum” show on WTVY, cooking up some of his famous cornbread.

“I’m more nervous about that than about the contest,” Cartwright said. “This is live TV.”

There are sure to be more great things coming from the family kitchen as Cartwright prepares to take on the regional 4-H “Chicken-Que” barbecue cook off in June with his “sneaky heat barbecue chicken.”

“At first it tastes sweet, then you can feel the heat in your throat,” he said. “I love to cook, and I get to do all this stuff through 4-H. I just love it.”