RGV mother-daughter duo finalists in H-E-B competition

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Mission, Texas (ValleyCentral)- A mother-daughter quest for the title of “Texas Best” begins at home.

Ximena Martinez (left) and Cynthia Villarreal (Right) pose in there home kitchen (KVEO Photographer Sal Castro)

H-E-B is hosting the final round of its 8th annual “Quest for Texas Best” competition in San Antonio, Texas from August 24 to 26.

The early rounds of competition saw 800 competitors with 20 making the finals including five being from the Rio Grande Valley.

All of whom are competing to win the $25,000 grand prize and the title of “Texas Best.”

One of those is La Casa de mi Abuela, a paring of Cynthia Villarreal and her daughter Ximena Martinez, who are making the traditional Mexican cuisine more ready-available. Established in 2016, the company offers a combination of meals for consumers to eat. It’s not dips or salsas but full-on meals that people can combine into other meals says La Casa de mi Abuela, founder Cynthia Villarreal.

La Casa de mi Abuela offers a variety of ready cuisines that people can snack on or combine in their meals. (ValleyCentral Photographer Sal Castro)

Born out of her daughter’s urging for homemade meals, the two begin cooking on the weekends to have meals ready for the week. Instead of pizza, hamburgers, and the same old food, Ximena Martinez was able to come home from school with ready-to-heat homemade meals.

Martinez cooks one of the La Casa de mi Abuela meals. (KVEO Photographer Sal Castro)

“If you have like something already like this, it was like you can create a lot of things with just one,” said Villarreal.

The path to the finals was not easy.

With her husband passing away in 2009, Villarreal returned to culinary school in hopes of becoming a chef to eventually run her own business.

The return to school allowed Villarreal to compete in the Iron Chef show twice and win the competition.

Ximena Martinez scoops out some food to cook. (KVEO Photographer Sal Castro)

Villarreal then turned her attention to building her own brand while also helping maintain her family’s businesses. As her daughter got older it made it more possible to bring La Casa de mi Abuela to life.

By being a mother-daughter combo both of them say it’s interesting.

“Working with my mom, it’s not hard, it’s just that she does it in a way that she does it and if you do it in a way you do it wrong she’ll kick you out of the kitchen,” said Martinez laughing.

“It’s fun, when she washes the dishes that’s the best part,” said Villarreal laughing.

A passion for cooking is what inspired Martinez to join her mom, a decision that comes from her time with her grandmother.

“She always had me in the kitchen making taquitos de harina with frijoles and that’s the only thing I knew how to cook for three years straight,” said Martinez.

As the date gets closer final preparations are being made. Staying up late, finishing the pitch, finalizing products are the struggles the two face. If they win the grand prize, they hope to expand the business even further.

“We’re really hoping to win but obviously everybody else has such amazing products,” said Martinez. But there’s no one else that has a Mexican product or something similar to ours.

Martinez cooks some food in the kitchen of her home (KVEO photographer Sal Castro)

For more information on the competition or La Casa de mi Abuela visit “Quest for Texas Best” or their facebook page.

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