Friday, November 17, 2017

Thrilla in the Grilla - A Grilling Contest for Veterans and First Responders

Second in a series of four posts about my food week in Orange Beach AL:
  1. World Food Championships 
  2. Thrilla in the Grilla 
  3. Grilling Demo for Pensacola Eggfest VIP party
  4. Pensacola Eggfest
The most rewarding thing I did at the World Foods Championships had to be helping our friends at Grilla Grills run the Thrilla in the Grilla, a contest
  • organized by Veterans
  • competed by Veterans and First Responders
  • table captained by Veterans and First Responders, and
  • judged by Veterans and First Responders
  • on Veterans' Day!

Earlier this year, Grilla Grills ran the online grilling recipe contest, Red, Hot, and Blue for Veterans and First Responders.  The contestants entered their recipe, told their story, and sent a picture of their dish.  A panel selected the Top 10 winners and Grilla Grills invited them to the World Food Championships to compete head to head.  

The contestants lined up for the final cooks meeting and waiting on the "GO!".
 The meeting was important because this contest varies in a few ways compared to most of the World Food Championships contests:

  1. First, the judging uses an open format instead of double blind, so they see which teams are cooking what as the clock.
  2. Second, the contestants only submit 1 entry in 2 hours, not structured AND signature.
  3. Finally, for an "improvise, adapt, overcome" theme, the contestants are given a mystery box of three ingredients that have to be used.  Each contestant got different sets of mystery ingredients.

We were lucky to have Michael McDearman as our emcee.  Michael is a well known competitive grill master and the Director of the Sam's Club National BBQ Tour.   Here he is interviewing Jason as he gloves up to get started.
Troy Winter seasoning his turkey breasts.  By seasoning from up high like this, he is ensuring better distribution of the seasoning.  If you season too close to the protein, the seasoning can have spotty coverage.

Mike Southerland of Brothers BBQ, a restaurant in Danville, Kentucky, being interviewed by one of the several film crews that were on site for the events.

The interesting thing to watch in the first few minutes was the cooks taste testing to see how their ideas for using the mystery ingredients would work.  

Mike had a lot on his mind.  Not only was he competing in THIS contest, Mike also had made Top 10 in his WFC category so he had finals starting in the kitchen arena before this contest even finished.  

Danny Mounts being Kitchen Ambushed by Kitchen Ambush.  What's everyone looking at here?

They are looking at these A9 graded wagyu steaks.  The picture doesn't do it justice, these things were magnificent.  So perfect it's almost a shame to cook them, they would be ideal shaved thin for carpaccio.

With the open format, not only were judges allowed to observe and interact with the cooks, they were encouraged to do so.  They asked great questions about sourcing of ingredients, game plans, recipe concept and how they were going to incorporate the mystery ingredients.

David McAlexander working on his flank steak roulade.
While Grilla has the Grilla, Kong, and Silverbac, all of the contestants cooked on Grillas.  That's the one we use at home.  I like the vortex of smoke that it produces.

Mike taking advantage of one of the features of the Grilla, the Swing Lid.  This allows you to check on and move your food without opening the lid all of the way and losing your heat.

The Kitchen Ambush crew was onsite, interviewing the cooks and catching the action.

Soft shell crabs were on the menu.

Mike Southerland showing his improvise, adapt, overcome technique by holding his flank steak warm under a mixing bowl.

The cooks showed the technique and flair of an Iron Chef when plating their dishes.

Now it was time for the certified judges to go to work on the 10 dishes.
The judges did NOT just say "hey, I like this one!".  They carefully evaluated each dish for appearance, execution, and taste and then assigned a score of 1 - 10 for each dish.  I peaked at the score cards when picking them up and knew that this was going to be a close one as the scores were very tightly grouped.  No surprise because all of these cooks delivered.

Unfortunately, I had some kind of a camera glitch and didn't get shots of all of the dishes.  Here are the ones that I did get.

Score cards have been entered and ranked, time to write the big checks!

Congratulations to Danny Mounts for winning with his beautiful wagyu beef filet!  Mike Southerland won 3rd and Geo Phelps took 2nd place. 

I love these awards!
I was so proud to be involved with this wonderful event on Veterans' Day.  Thanks to Grilla Grills for letting me be part of it!