Thursday, November 9, 2017

World Food Championship 2017 - Day 1

I am in Orange Beach, Alabama this week for two events.

Today was Day 1 of the World Food Championships.  This food sport spectacle reminds me of the days of the Coliseum.  The WFC pits 1500 highly qualified contestants against each other in the kitchen stadium (arena?) where they slug it out and the last cook comes away with their $110,000 share of $300,000 in total prize money.  

Here's what today was like in pictures.  The event runs all week through the weekend so come on out.  Admittance is free and there is a ton of things going on.  If you're in the area, it would just be fun for the heck of it.  If you are a foodie, this is one worth traveling for.  

There were two sessions today. 
  • World Chef Challenge - Structured (had to make paella) and Signature (whatever they wanted) rounds 
  • World Steak Championship - Structured (had to make kebabs) and Signature

Even though it's only the second year in Orange Beach, the Ferris wheel at The Wharf is already an iconic symbol of the World Food Championships to me.  Personally, I hope they keep it here after the three year agreement ends after next year.  

World Food Championships #wfc2017 #foodsport
When I arrived, crews were scurrying around finishing the final touches on building this temporary community.

If you don't see it get built, you really don't realize how much goes into a major production like this.  Tents built, power lines run, and all sorts of infrastructure don't magically appear.

Cooks start bringing in their tools, supplies, and knife rolls.

World Food Championships #wfc2017 #foodsport
Here is the field of battle - kitchen stadium.  It can host 40 cook teams at once.

Each team gets the same set up.  A Kitchenaid oven and stove top, a Bull gas grill, a microwave, a mixer/grinder, two tables, and an Orion cooler. 
The exception is the BBQ teams who cook on Saturday.  They bring their own rigs and of course, I went around to see who was already set up.  This is going to be a tight contest this year, there are a lot of good cook teams here. 

A nice Jambo pit.

I like that this pit will be cooking on Veterans Day this weekend.

There are a lot of stick burners at this event, it seems more so than the usual regional KCBS events that we attend.

A Lone Star Grills offset pit. 

One of our favorite team names - South Pork - unloading their Jambo.  What?  I helped him move it, I didn't just take a picture and leave him hanging.

Sweet PitMaker rig, I've always liked their rigs because they are so multi-function and vendor friendly.

Good to see Smoke On This down from East Tennessee.  I'm not judging the BBQ category this year so I can say that I hope Jackie does extremely well.

Halt or we will fire.....up our smoker!

Another fine Pitmaker.  

Another offset rolling in later in the day.

Jeff Davis putting together a couple of Kamado Joes.  I was hoping we might get a sneak peak of the new Pro Joes but not just yet.  There's been a buzz about those and I can't wait to see one.

BBQ teams were rolling in all day long.

So many things going on and the bulk of it is FREE.

World Food Championships #wfc2017 #foodsport
Eric Harland and Byron Bos are animals!  They were just knocking out whatever needed to be done.  They are two of the new ambassador function MMA added this year. These select few folks are like a president's cabinet.  I like it, every dealing that I saw or had with an ambassador was 100% positive. You can tell these people are vested in WFC.

World Food Championships #wfc2017 #foodsport
Mike McCloud conducting the pregame meeting with the chefs.  The chef on the left with the white hat is Nick Theirs from Ringold (near Chattanooga) and coming into this event, he holds the #1 spot with just a .75 point lead! 

World Food Championships #wfc2017 #foodsport
Cheferees were added this year to 1) monitor for compliance with rules and 2) educate/entertain the crowd about what is going on at the time.   I love this shot because it looks like they are arguing over a call (they weren't).

World Food Championships #wfc2017 #foodsport
Saffron was in charge of judges today and did a good job herding us wet cats.  

World Food Championships #wfc2017 #foodsport
One of the Chef Signature dishes - it was chicken in a puffy golden crust, on top of creamy bed of eggs and other goodness, and a tomato jam (marmalade? can't remember now).  It was delightful.

World Food Championships #wfc2017 #foodsport
How gorgeous is this halibut on a mash with green pea puree? The plastic bulb contained a red wine sauce to go over it all. 

World Food Championships #wfc2017 #foodsport
There was a lot going on with these scallops in terms of color and flavor. They cooked the scallops perfectly.

Traffic jam of the competitors for the World Steak Championship, waiting to be let into the arena.  It has to be reset after each category so the cooks and chefs all get a clean, organized and identical work station.

Several sponsors are onsite like KitchenAid.

Orion Coolers brought there entire warehouse I think! Each cook team area had one and then all of these.

The competitor stations were each outfitted with an Ankarsrum mixer

I am so tempted to buy one because of how the grinder attachment blows away my current mixer.

World Food Championships #wfc2017 #foodsport
Mike addressing the head cooks for the steak competitors.

Brad Barrett of GrillGrates gave each and every steak team a set of GrillGrates!  This is one of the most popular aftermarket grill accessories out there so I know the teams were stoked.

World Food Championships #wfc2017 #foodsport
Some folks get all intense as soon as the clock starts, others are all smiles.

You see a lot of these side bar discussions as teammates make the final decisions that will make or break their pursuit of $110,000.

World Food Championships #wfc2017 #foodsport certified angus beef #bestangusbeef
Robert Kraatz Jr was using Certified Angus Beef®.

World Food Championships #wfc2017 #foodsport
Teams have 1 hour to prepare their Structured Dish and then immediately another hour to prepare their Signature Dish.  

World Food Championships #wfc2017 #foodsport
It's not just grilling a steak of course so there is a lot of cooking going on for the whole 2 hours.

World Food Championships #wfc2017 #foodsport Sweet Swine of Mine
Mark Lambert trimming a beautiful beef tenderloin and rocking the Operation BBQ Relief hat.

World Food Championships #wfc2017 #foodsport
"Season like rain..."

World Food Championships #wfc2017 #foodsport
It's not even the weekend yet and the spectators are already filling the arena.

The pressure of fighting off 1,499 other chefs that want to take your $110,000 isn't enough for you?  Fine, let's stick a camera in your face too! ;) 

World Food Championships #wfc2017 #foodsport
The kind of things the Cheferee's look for would be something like a team using a sous vide device, or building an artificial structure over 3" high.

World Food Championships #wfc2017 #foodsport
Coffee or espresso in a sauce for your steak?  I could see that.  I saw so many steaks I wanted to try today.

World Food Championships #wfc2017 #foodsport
Everything was precision - every ingredient, every step, and every detail.

Kebabs on one of the 40 Bull grills in use all week.
 Here are some of the turn ins for the Steak - Structured part of today's rounds.

World Food Championships #wfc2017 #foodsport
John Reeves and Chris Chadwick are doing 2 smart things in this picture.  First, they are using GrillGrates upside down to get more of a pan seared crust on the their bone in ribeyes.  Second, they have a smoke tube in the gas grill to add flavor to their steaks.

World Food Championships #wfc2017 #foodsport
Adrian Cruze with some awesomely thick steaks.  That's a bold move and I like it.

Adrian searing them off in a skillet. Also going for that golden crust like John Reeves.  Two different ways to create the same effect.

They "outlawed" sous vide devices last year but they didn't say anything about butter poaching!
World Food Championships #wfc2017 #foodsport
Robert was meticulous in trimming his steaks.  Again, every little detail becomes huge when the competition is this tight.

Crowds took a keen interest in what certain chefs were doing.

Mark Lambert using wood chips to add smoke to his steaks.  I only saw a few teams do this and I think it HAS to help.

World Food Championships #wfc2017 #foodsport
You know the saying, "To be the man you have to beat the man"?  This is them...the Lukes won last year and from watching them in action, I see why.  

Are ya done yet?

Final touches.

Table Captain showing a team's entry to the judges to score for appearance.  We use the E.A.T. methodology that scores Execution, Appearance, and Taste of each dish in a double blind setting.  They don't know who's food they are judging.

World Food Championships #wfc2017 #foodsport
Judges evaluating appearance of the sample dish.
 Some examples of the steak turn ins. 

That's it for tonight.  I'll be judging again tomorrow and helping Grilla Grills get set up for the Thrilla At The Grilla contest.  These 10 Veterans and/or First Responders are the finalist from a contest held by Grilla earlier this year.  Now they go head to head to see who is the champion.

The World Food Championships are held at The Wharf in Orange Beach, AL.