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Cooking Competition Features Squirrel, Not Burgers

BENTONVILLE (KFSM) – The third annual World Championships Squirrel Cookoff happened in Bentonville Saturday. Thirty-eight cooking teams from 13 states cam...

BENTONVILLE (KFSM) - The third annual World Championships Squirrel Cookoff happened in Bentonville Saturday. Thirty-eight cooking teams from 13 states came together to create unique dishes featuring squirrel.

"We sometimes get a bad rap that we are just shooting stuff and putting antlers on the wall," founder Joe Wilson said.

Wilson said he created the event so people won't lose their appreciation of hunting small wild game.

"I want to make sure the heritage of eating squirrels sticks around," he said.

Wilson said the question he gets most often is if squirrel tastes like chicken. He said squirrel meat is very lean and all natural, and has a flavor all of its own. The winner of this year's squirrel cookoff was from a Siloam Springs restaurant, 28 Springs.

The team consisted of head chef Dorothy Hall, head pastry chef Chris Eads and head drinks enthusiast Casey Letellier. The team created a dish of squirrel meatloaf, a squirrel lollipop and a woodsy whiskey beverage.

"We've been planning for a couple months now, and Casey went out and was hunting and accumulating squirrels, and we did several test rounds to figure out what it was we wanted to do," Hall said.

Letellier said he hunted the fox and grey squirrels on his family's property in Decatur.

"It's a challenging time of year to hunt squirrels, the leaves are in full canopy, they're really difficult to see, but it's also great to have an excuse to get out in the woods," Letellier said.

Organizers said this year more than five thousand people stopped in to enjoy the cookoff. In 2011 they had 15 competitors, and this year there were 40. The proceeds from the squirrel cookoff go to the Youth Bridge foundation in Fayetteville.