THE ULTIMATE FOOD FIGHT
WORLD FOOD CHAMPIONSHIPS
BY VEGAS FOOD NERD
The nerd landed a particularly exciting assignment from my editor. On a whim, I submitted an application to be a judge at second annual World Food Championship held this past November in the middle of the Fremont Street and all throughout Downtown Las Vegas. Once I was selected, I was told to “write about it”. If you are a foodie, you probably already knew about this really cool throw-down event. It is a cool experience to behold, especially if you have ever watched an episode of Iron Chef, or any type of cooking competition television programming.
The World Food Championships is a yearlong, worldwide search for the best team, cook or chefs in competition food sport. The final event takes place over a four-day high-stakes seven-category competition to name the ultimate World Food Champion from over 350 competitors. There’s a $300,000 prize purse on the line, and anyone from pros to average Joe’s can earn their right to compete in this unique culinary tournament.
I was chosen by the good people of World Food Champ to judge the “Best Recipe” portion of the competition. “Best Recipe” turned out to mean best pasta recipe. Being part Italian myself, I was much more confident in my judging skills once I learned that little detail. The competition will be held once again this year, so if you are interested in judging or competing, now is the time to start gearing up for the next event this fall. Once I arrived on the day I was scheduled to judge, I could not believe the scale and size of the whole entire thing. Fremont Street looked like the entire Food Network studios had exploded all over it. There were chili cook-offs in one direction and all up and down the Downtown area were food purveyors handing out free food for sampling. The bacon booth had to be the longest line, with tourists and participants alike lined up waiting for free bacon. Pretty amusing.
I checked in for my judging assignment and was directed to the secret judging area. It was really just a white tent they had erected for this huge food gathering, but it made me feel important, either way. I, of course, being the diligent food nerd that I am, had really researched and read about the event before it actually happened. So when Ben Vaughn, the main host of World Food Championship, walked into our tent with the production crew, camera crew, and producers, I recognized him immediately. I did feel bad for him at one point though, when a guy at our judging table actually asked him who he was. Obviously, he wasn’t as good of a food nerd as me. Then each of the judges was given our judging forms, a bit of direction, and then the pasta came out to eat. First up was a Thai-inspired Pasta, with some sort of fish and a lime wedge. Not so great, but the biggest drawback is when you are judging food with a camera in your face, it is pretty hard to time when to take each bite. Our host, thanks to his show’s producer, was given every embarrassing looking bite, so they could catch it all on camera. So I guess he had it worse. Next came Seafood Ravioli – which was the favorite at my table. The next competition we judged was Macaroni and Cheese. Yay! This turned out to be much harder to judge than the first round. Food is like music, and tastes are so subjective. The one that I thought was really good, no one else liked. And my final favorite – the fried Mac and Cheeseburger-styled Slider (a patty made of deep-fried mac and cheese – sans burger) topped off with bacon. This was a highly controversial dish, as just myself and one other judge liked it, while the others didn’t care for it.
I thought it won on creativity alone, but alas, I was not one of the “celebrity” judges who ultimately awarded the 2013 World Food Championships title to Dave Elliott of Olathe, Kansas, who beat out tough competitors in the barbeque, burger, sandwich, chili, bacon world, dessert, and world recipe categories, with his competitive Carrot Cake and took home $50,000 for the title that was part of the $300,000 event purse.
I just hope I judged, and judged fairly. Now I am going somewhere to get some macaroni and cheese, and next year? I just might try competing.
Look for The World Food Championships to be broadcast as a six-hour television series to be aired this year. For more info visit: WorldFoodChampionships.com