A Competitor’s and Judge’s Perspective of the coming World Food Championships 2015

In a week, the World Food Championships descends upon Kissimmee, FL for the ultimate food fight. I am following Keoni Simmons from San Diego, CA for this year’s World Food Championships. He is a classically-trained chef and owner of the Hungry Chef. He has even formulated an Original BBQ Sauce using local ingredients with an essence of Hawaii. His family is originally from Hawaii and both of us grew up on the same local food. I had to chance to meet this awesome chef and ask him about the WFC. I am also including my perspective as a judge.

From left to right: Jeff Roberto (Sushi on a Roll) and Keoni Simmons (Hungry Chef San Diego)
If you could give just one piece of advice to someone competing at WFC for the first time, what would it be?

KS: “I would tell them to have fun! I know it’s a competition. If you’re not having fun then it is not worth it.”

CM: “Make a mental plan of what needs to be done from prep to submission. Practice at home with timing and plating. One of the competitors last year lost track of time and ended up rushing to the turn in. She tripped and lost one of her judges’ plates as well as her presentation plate. The missing plate ended up being a zero and our table had to give her very low scores on the presentation.”

What is the most important thing to remember when competing?

KS: “There are actually a couple things to remember: 1) Pay attention to the clock. If you do not turn it in on time, you get zero points. 2) Stick to your game plan. Do not change things around at the last minute.”

CM: “Focus is the most important thing to remember. Do not pay attention to your competitors or what they are cooking. Focus on your dish during preparation and make your presentation count. After you turn in, then you can check out what everyone else is doing.”

How do you stay focused when there is $100,000 on the line?

KS: “I am not really thinking about the $100,000. I am there to lay the smack down on the other competitors. To me, if I win the money, it is just bacon sprinkles on top of my doughnut and makes it that much better!”

What is the most difficult aspect of the competition?

KS: “The waiting to compete. You have a 100 different thoughts going through your head on how to make your dish better. Ignore them and stick to your game plan.”

What is the best way to deal with the heat of the competition?

KS: “With an Ice Cold Beer!”

CM: “Having met Keoni, I observed that he is an even-keeled chef. I can see him being calm and collected with his second chance of competing at WFC. Now that he knows what is expected, it will be just that much easier for him this year.”

Tell me about your journey to WFC 2015. Do you know what you will be preparing this year?

KS: “Last year, we had a month to get ready for the competition. We were in first going into the final 10 of our category. This year, we have had a lot more time to come up with our dish, hopefully that will help. Right now it’s down to the Island Soar Boy 2.0 and a sandwich using ribeye for the Sandwich Competition.”

For more information:
Kissimmee, FL
November 3-10, 2015

Keoni Simmons, Hungry Chef