Macaroni and cheese is a classic combination. And when it comes to hosting charity events, so are Oak Street Drafthouse and Komodo Loco.
The two businesses came together to host the second Denton Mac ’n Cheese Festival, which raised money for Denton ISD’s school lunch program. Through ticket sales alone, Sunday’s event on Oakland Street raised $7,500.
“Everybody’s known about students that don’t have money to pay for food,” Komodo Loco co-owner Corey Bobbitt said. “We were just trying to figure out a way that we could assist them.”
Bobbitt worked with Oak Street Drafthouse owner John Williams to put together the festival last year. Williams said the event raised about $4,500 last year and tickets sold out in two or three days. He said that this year, all 500 tickets sold out in less than 24 hours.
Several local businesses made macaroni and cheese for the event. One of these was the Bearded Monk, a craft beer bar that returned to participate after last year’s event. Owner Ben Esely brought his two sons to the festival and said that even though they don’t have to worry about the cost of school lunches, some of their friends will probably benefit from this fundraiser.
“This is another weird, wonderful Denton event that is not just fun and irreverent,” Esely said. “But it also makes a difference.”
The Bearded Monk’s mac and cheese entry was made by Mark Germany, a friend of Esely’s and the owner of Ralvin Ciders. Germany said he used three kinds of cheese and evaporated milk. He said he wanted to keep it simple, so he did not add any toppings or meat.
The Denton location of Mellow Mushroom also participated in the festival. The restaurant’s staff won last year with a macaroni and cheese version of their Holy Shiitake pizza. This year, they brought a macaroni and cheese version of their Great White pizza.
“Last year, part of the reason why I think we potentially won is we were one of three vegetarian options,” said Chynna Byers, who works for Mellow Mushroom. “There’s a lot of vegetarians in Denton. This year, I can tell over half of the people decided to go with vegetarian mac and cheese.”
Attendees appreciated the variety of dishes. Beth Speiser attended the festival last year. This year, she brought her friend Kendra Gonzales, a teacher at Pecan Creek Elementary School. She said she has not seen many kids at her school who can’t afford lunches, but she knows it is a big issue in the district as a whole.
“[Some kids], they’re not as fortunate to be able to buy lunch everyday,” Gonzales said. “They can’t get that meal that’s promised to them. Food should be the last thing they have to worry about.”
At the end of the festival, the winners were crowned. Po-K Loco won first place with its creamy smoked-pepper queso blanco mixed with roasted corn and Texas-shaped macaroni topped with a cilantro, cotija cheese and hot Cheeto crumble. The Bearded Monk came in second and Hannah’s came in third.
Bobbitt said he hopes the festival will continue to improve and grow.
“Obviously, we want this thing to get bigger in the future,” Bobbitt said. “It’s just going to be [about] logistics and planning. It’s better for us to start off small and just kind of grow.”