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Tuesday, February 7, 2017

2016 World Food Championships Blogger Summit Day 3: Bringing it all together



A beautiful, bright morning started our last day of the Blogger Summit. We had an early move for the folks that were not continuing their stay at Turquoise Place. I was having a hatchback issue with my rental car and didn’t want to leave my suitcase in plain view in the back seat. After 15 minutes monkeying around with the key and lock, it finally opened. I was so relieved and began a short drive to The Wharf.

The Palms is an event space located on the corner of Main Street and Wharf Parkway at The Wharf. It is 5,455 square feet with restrooms and a kitchen facility. It’s a great place for an event, reception, business meeting, or in our case, our last “classroom” day.


Jen Danby from The Happy Egg Co. presented an overview of the brand along with some news since last year. The Happy Egg Co. produces high quality, humanely raised eggs. Happy eggs come from happy hens! We had a lemon pound cake for breakfast made with these delicious eggs. Teams competing at World Food Championship were so lucky to be using such a great product for their entries. #TrueFreeRange #FlockingHappy

Donna Benner, Suzanne Clark, and Darie O’Connor composed a panel to discuss how we can take our blogs to the next level. Donna is the founder of Swoon Talent and helps open doors for her influencers, like Suzanne Clark. Suzanne is “Living A Creative Life” as a lifestyle expert/television personality in the Phoenix area and shared her strategies on how to approach a TV station with ideas and how to be invited back on a regular basis. Darie, of TryThisDish Radio, showcases international stars of the culinary world and the people she meets on her travels.

Our “half time” from the Blogger Summit continued with the World Food Championship Kick-Off news conference. Ken Grimes (City Administrator, City of Orange Beach), Herb Malone (President/CEO, Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism), and Art Favre (Owner, The Wharf at Orange Beach) welcomed World Food Championships to Orange Beach. Mike McCloud (President/CEO, World Food Championships) presented some cool facts about WFC:

  • Contestants come from – 48 states and 14 countries comprising 419 teams (over 1400 competitors)
  • $300,000 prize purse
  • 591 articles written (and I wrote a few of them) with a reach of 496,334,180
  • 12 returning champions – 2 grand champions and 10 category champions

Our blogger summit ended with Food Champ Judging Class and E.A.T. Certification. Two champions competitors from Nashville’s Burger Republic were our “mock” competitors so we could learn how to judge. They both had to use Bubba Burgers like actual competitors in a Structured Round. 

E.A.T. stands for Execution (35%), Appearance (15%), and Taste (50%). I love that every dish is judged on its own merit, just like Kansas City Barbeque Society (KCBS). Although I’ve been judging competitions since 2010 and WFC since 2014, it was great to finally get E.A.T Certified and have a snazzy gold card.

Our judging class was put to immediate use. For those bloggers who were not competing at WFC, we were to judge the Opening Round of the World Dessert Championship. Mike allowed an exception for the bloggers to take photos during judging. But I was unable to take notes so I’m going from memory.

In the Structured Round, all the competitors had to make a crepe dessert. Dessert 1 was a traditional crepe suzette and beautifully presented. The sweetness was just right and had a nice citrus flavor. Segmenting the oranges so they are free of the membrane would have put this over the top. The membrane can cause a bitterness if some of the pith is left on.

Dessert 2 was a tropical take on a crepe suzette with bananas and coconut. The sauce was overly sweet and the orange flavor did not match with the tropical flavors of the coconut and banana. I would have gone with just the citrus or just tropical with pineapple and coconut instead.

Dessert 3 had an almost Japanese-French bakery take on the crepe. The crepe had a spongy cake texture to it. With the fresh strawberry and cream filling, it was reminiscent of a rolled sponge cake. I would have used a different nut like hazelnut for a nuttier flavor.

Dessert 4 was a take on Cherries Jubilee. The cherries were definitely in the forefront and in your face with sweet and tart flavor. If the filling had been thicker with a cream cheese or mascarpone, it would have balanced out the flavors much better.

It pains me to say it, but Dessert 5 was a disaster. The crepe was burnt, dry, and very sloppily made. I think this one had a time-management issues and the clock simply got the best of them.

In the Signature Round, the competitors were able to make their own recipe. The recipe could have been the one that qualified them for WFC. Dessert 1 - I don’t remember much but I know I liked the bacon on top.

Dessert 2 was a beautifully presented and executed pecan pie tart. I normally do not like pecan pies but this one was amazing. The crust was perfect with a buttery, flaky texture. The pecan filling had a nice texture. The maple glaze/sauce on top of the filling was amazing! It had a luxurious texture and creamy, caramel like flavor.

Dessert 3 – I don’t remember much about this one either. 

Dessert 4 had a beautiful presentation but it didn’t taste like what it looked like. I saw all these bright red strawberries and expected it to taste like fresh, sweet strawberries. But even with all those strawberries, it tasted like artificial strawberry-flavored gelatin with non-dairy whipped topping. I judge recipes at the annual California Strawberry Festival and this one totally missed the mark. L

Dessert 5 was a crumble/cobbler topped with ice cream in a mini cast iron skillet. I just love desserts in mini cast iron skillets! But while the idea was great in theory, the execution fell short. This is a mishap that often happens when you are mixing a hot item with a cold item. The ice cream melted making the top of the crumble/cobbler soggy. The fruit mix underneath the crumble topping had too much liquid turning it into a fruit soup on the bottom. I found out later that this competitor is known for her ice cream. I think making a dessert utilizing her ice cream might work better if she made a parfait/trifle using layers of cake, brownies, cookie crumbles, etc. in between the ice cream. She would able to freeze the whole thing before serving and not have to worry about a hot item melting her ice cream.

As the sun went down, the opening round of the World Dessert Championship came to a close. The evening was still young and it was time for the WFC Kick-Off Party and the Culinary Fight Club’s ‘Bama Beach Shrimp Boil.

The perfect spot for ‘Bama Beach Shrimp Boil was on the pristine, white sugar sands of Orange Beach at Gulf State Park. As per the Culinary Fight Club rules, the chefs are allowed to bring 2-3 of their own ingredients and have a 60-second dash for communal pantry items. After the chefs started their cook, I ran into Chef Jernard Wells, a.k.a The Chef of Love. You might recognize him as Food Network’s Food Network Star, Season 12 runner-up. He has the love for food and is such a nice guy!

Creative Conecepts’ Chef Turon Cumming’s entry

Reinhart Foodservice’s Chef Demetrio Marquez’s entry

The Hit Squad’s Chef Jerome Brown’s entry

Local Eatery & Pub’s Chef Craig Baker’s entry

Sorry, I was so tired that night, I can’t even remember who won. As the cool sea breeze brought on the shivers, it was time to head back to my hotel in Gulf Shores for some R&R before another day of competition starting with the Bacon World Championship!

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