The Cooking Ladies

How to be a Food Sport Competitor and Win $100,000

At the World Food Championships, a fast-paced culinary challenge, home cooks and back yard grillers compete with Food Network chefs and restaurant owners. It’s all about good food, competition, and fun.

Once you have chosen your category out of the nine included in the competition (bacon, barbecue, burger, chili, dessert, steak, sandwich, seafood, and recipe) and you quality and your registration is accepted, all you have to do is create a recipe that will win not only the $10,000 prize for your category but the coveted silver suitcase with the final, overall prize of $100,000.

To be ready for the competition, you have to prepare your recipe again and again and again. Until the appearance, taste, and degree of doneness is perfect, until the time it takes to prepare your recipe comes in under the allotted time, every time, because a late turn in to the judges is a reason to be disqualified.

You book your transportation and accommodation and pack up your equipment, display dishes, and team mates, if you require them, and get yourself to Gulf Shores/Orange Beach Alabama where you purchase any supplies that you haven’t transported with you.

On the day of your first round of competition you locate the tented kitchen arena at The Wharf in Orange Beach where shiny, stainless steel kitchens are all set up. You and your category competitors line-up to wait for the signal to enter.

Waiting line

Competitors gather at the kitchen arena

Equipment

Precious cargo – all the necessary utensils and ingredients

Once in the kitchen arena, you meet with World Food Championship CEO Mike McCleod for announcements and a review of the rules of competition. You sign in your team at the turn-in table where all the finished dishes are presented for delivery to the judges.

Kitchen arena

The kitchen arena ready for the action

Meeting

Team leaders meeting with Mike McCloud

Signing in

Signing in and picking up presentation trays

Turn-in

The turn-in table with judges on the other side of the curtain

Breathe

Time to breathe before competition begins

When all the competitors are at their kitchen stations, the competition begins, the clock starts counting down, and spectators begin to gather.

Spectators

Spectators want to be close to the action

Kitchen

Your kitchen for the next few hours

Your kitchen space is compact, the set up unlike what you are accustomed to, but, because you spend so much time in a kitchen it is also familiar. You begin to set out ingredients and utensils, turn on the stove, plug in the blender, and test the grill.

Focus

There is work to be done

Team

Team work

Team

Gathering for a team photo

Happy

A happy competitor

Seafood

This competitor takes seafood from boat to table

Competition

Nothing stops the competitive spirit

Team Philippines

Team Philippines

Chef Chris

Chef Chris Sherrill sharing his love of seafood

Fun

Part of the fun, sharing the experience

Media people come around asking questions. They point cameras and microphones at you, and your hands, as you open containers, set out bowls and measure spices.

Cheferee answering competitors' questions

Cheferee answering competitors’ questions

Cheferee

Cheferee on patrol

Cheferees cruise around the kitchen stations answering questions, teasing the spectators with descriptions of all the dishes being prepared, and shouting out the time left on the clock.

Torch

Saving time with the torch technique

Pasta

Pasta draining and steam rising

Texas

Concentration

In spite of all the distractions, you have to stay focussed.

Canada

Cheerleaders for Team Canada

Philippines

Cheerleaders for Team Philippines

As the final minutes tick down, as all the components of your dish are close to completion, your family, friends, and new foodie acquaintances cheer you on.

Far too soon, it’s time to plate your dish. You set out plates and build your presentation.

Presentation

Setting up Steak Oscar presentation plates

Building

Building the presentation – asparagus first

Steak

Adding the steak

Topping with seafood

Topping with seafood

Main

Plate presentation for Execution and Appearance

Tray loaded with judges' tasting plates

Tray loaded with judges’ tasting plates

You load your large serving tray with one main plate to be judged for execution and appearance and 5 small plates for the individual judges to taste. The highest points are given for taste.

Last minute touches

Last minute touches

Garnishing the plates

Garnishing the plates

Spectators watch Russell Bird complete his dishes

Spectators watch Russell Bird complete his dishes

Before picking up your tray, you take the time for any necessary quick fixes like wiping dribbles and straightening garnish. Every plate must look exactly the same.

Table

On the way to the turn-in table

Walking

Milena Santoro and Shannon Minor walking carefully

It is a long walk from your kitchen prep space to the turn-in table, especially when you are carrying a tray loaded with your precious servings. You have to walk as fast as possible but at the same time prevent those plates from slipping.

Made it to the turn-in table

Made it to the turn-in table

Done

Done! And everyone is happy with the steak

Jasmin

Done! Jasmin is relieved

You made it. Your dish is on the turn-in table. You’re done!

Your path to the silver suitcase is in the hands of the judges.

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