Justin Martinez had tried for years to capture one of the top two prizes for food served at the State Fair of Texas.
He came close one year, when he coated jelly beans in funnel cake batter and deep-fried them.
But Monday he took home the big prize, winning the "most creative" food category in the State Fair's Seventh Annual Big Tex Choice Awards for his Fried Bubblegum.
"I couldn't believe it," said Martinez, 30, of Arlington, who runs Granny's Funnel Cakes on Coliseum Drive and other booths at the fair. "I was shocked. I tried so many years. I always said that one day, it would be great to ... be one of the top two.
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His dish really isn't bubblegum at all.
It's bubblegum-flavored marshmallows dipped in batter, fried and decorated with icing and powdered sugar.
"It does not work to fry bubblegum," Martinez said he learned. "It doesn't taste good, and you can't chew it."
The other top State Fair prize for best-tasting food went to Allan Weiss for his Buffalo Chicken in a Flapjack.
He took a skewered buffalo chicken strip, coated it with flapjack batter and rolled it in jalapeño bread crumbs before deep-frying the concoction. It's served with a side of syrup.
"It mixes the sweet and spicy," said Weiss, 69, of Dallas. "It's a great combination."
He's had other dishes, from fried guacamole to fried queso, that didn't win, which may be why he "was really shocked and surprised" when he won this year.
"There were a lot of good entries," said Weiss, whose dishes can be found inside the Automobile Building and in the Thrill Way. "They all deserve to win."
The other contenders:
Deep Fried Pineapple Upside Down Cake: pineapple rings dipped in cake batter, fried, topped with a glaze made of caramel, sugar and cinnamon and served with a cherry on top.
Deep Fried Texas Salsa: a medley of jalapeños, roasted garlic, onion, tomato and pepper rolled together, dipped in masa and crunchy tortilla chips, and deep-fried. It's served with queso.
El Bananarito: a deep-fried banana rolled in a flour tortilla and topped with whipped cream, powdered sugar, cinnamon and vanilla extract, topped off with hot caramel or chocolate syrup.
Fried Autumn Pie: a puff pastry filled with pumpkin, cream cheese, powdered sugar and fall spices, deep-fried and rolled in ginger, cinnamon and sugar.
Hans' Kraut Ball: browned pork sausage, onion, garlic, sauerkraut, mustard and seasonings rolled into a ball and covered with bread crumbs, then deep-fried and served with spicy mustard, raspberry chipotle or ranch.
The Walking Taco: seasoned hamburger meat, lettuce, onion, fresh tomato, grated cheese, sour cream and salsa served in a nacho cheese-flavored Doritos bag.
Anna M. Tinsley, 817-390-7610