It was the summer of Destiny’s Child’s Bootylicious, the remake of Moulin Rouge was in theaters, and less than a month before Central Market opened its doors to gastronomically curious Fort Worthians, the country was devastated by 9/11.
Twenty years later, Central Market has changed the way we think about and eat food, bringing us around the world with their country-specific Passport events, live music on the patio, and their renowned Hatch Chile Festival – which was started by them and has been imitated by countless others in the years since.
This past Friday, September 24th, Central Market celebrated 20 years in Cowtown with a party on their patio fit for the occasion with remarks by Central Market/H-E-B president Stephen Butt, Central Market Fort Worth general manager Austin Jourde, Mayor Mattie Parker and a dreamlike concert by Ray Benson and Asleep at the Wheel.
Did you know that Fort Worth was the first city in all of the Fort Worth / Dallas Metroplex to be graced with a Central Market? In addition to the store celebrating 20 years, there are 23 original employees from the Fort Worth location who are celebrating this milestone as well, including general manager Austin Jorde.
The food at the party was as good as you could imagine it would be for a Central Market shindig, featuring delicious bites from Molly McCook of Ellerbe Fine Foods, Jon Bonnell of Bonnell’s and Blaine Staniford of Grace and Little Red Wasp. Chef Molly McCook served a house-made Andouille meatball with creole slaw, Tabasco-spiked onions and pickled market okra that was perfectly piquant and had me wanting to go back for more. Chef Jon Bonnell served a crawfish roll, which was like a Texas-fied lobster roll – buttery and so delicious. Chef Blaine Staniford served Hawaiian swordfish with chermoula, labneh and a sweet and smoky Vadouvan curry that put some pep in my step. Local suds served included Rahr’s Oktoberfest, with Fritz Rahr in attendance, as well as the Best Maid + Martin House collaboration Sour Pickle Beer.
Here are some interesting facts from the first 20 years at Central Market:
- Sold over 1 million packages of Central Market tortillas
- Sold over 1 million pounds of salmon
- Sold over 6 million pounds of bananas
- Sold at least over 6 million pounds of beef
Central Market has also given back over $10 million to the local community since 2001 via partnerships with schools, military families, local police and fire departments, disaster relief services and nonprofit organizations like Tarrant Area Food Bank, Harris Methodist, Cook Children’s, and The Blue Zones Project. For over 8 years now, thousands of volunteers have banded together with Central Market to serve over 10,000 people per year through the Feast of Sharing event, where holiday meals are served to the less fortunate. With COVID last year and this year, the Feast of Sharing has been transitioned to an in-home program via food bank partnerships, and Central Market hopes to return to the in-person event next year.
After the remarks, Ray Benson and Asleep at the Wheel put on one hell of a concert with hits like Route 66, Big Balls in Cowtown and a special tribute to the occasion to the tune of Deep in the Heart of Texas, singing “Being around for over 20 great years – clap clap clap clap – Here at the Central Market!” Miss the concert at Central Market but want to see Asleep at the Wheel and up for an overnighter? Ray will be celebrating 50 years of Asleep at the Wheel with a special concert event on October 15th in Austin.
What are some of your favorite memories over the last 20 years at Central Market Fort Worth? Let us know in the comments!
Justin Anderson is an entrepreneur raised in the swamps of Houston who, at the age of 18, was the youngest vendor in Central Market’s history when he launched his line of Anderson Trail Premium Soft Granola. After planting his stake in Fort Worth and attending TCU, he launched WOATS Oatsnack which was first sold at Central Market. Justin has reported on the Olympics for Madeworthy, is a longtime resident of downtown Fort Worth, and you can check out his YouTube channel for inspiration to cook easy fabulous recipes at justinanderson.tv.