Chef claims she received death threats for entering vegan meatballs into meatball contest

Apparently people in South Philly take their meatballs very seriously, as one chef learned after receiving death threats for entering vegan meatballs into a recent contest, Philly Mag reported.

Jennifer “Fear” Zavala, a food truck owner, made chickpea meatballs for the Fourth Annual Meatballs & Gravy contest earlier this month. But despite meeting all the competition requirements, not everyone was pleased with her meatless dish.


Both judges and attendees alike had strong opinions about Zavala’s creation, which were technically an old Sicilian dish known as panelle, according to Victor Fiorillo of Philly Mag, who served as one of the judges for the contest.

The elite judges of our little gravy/meatball challenge. #tr19 #braggingrights #itssaucenotgravy

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“It’s not a f---ing vegan competition,” one judge was overheard saying.

“They’re called meatballs,” said another.

Things got even more heated when rumors Zavala won the contest made their way around the event.

“The tattooed b---- won!” one woman told another.

People were fuming that Zavala’s meatballs, which “didn’t even have meat," earned the top prize. The anger continued on event’s Facebook page, where people took to the comments to express their frustration, Philly Mag reports.

“How does a non-meat meatball win at a south Philly meatball contest? I feel sad for people that took the time to make a real meatball and lost to a gluten free chickpea rolled ball,” one person wrote.

“That should not have even been allowed. That will be the first and last time I attend that contest there. The yuppies are taking over South Philly,” commented another.

The “meatball controversy” even resulted in threatening messages sent to Zavala directly.


“I may not make it out of Monday alive!! Apparently making a non-meat, meat-a-ball.. gets one death threats,” she wrote on Facebook, according to Philly Mag.

As it turns out, it was all a big misunderstanding and Zavala didn’t win the competition. The real winning meatballs were made of made of veal, pork and beef.