On to the Largest Food Sport Tournament...EVER!
World Food Championships is the largest Food Sport tournament in history with well over 1200 contestants on 419 official teams. They come from 48 American states and 14 countries to compete, while more than 20,000 foodies watch and enjoy the heat of the battle unfold in 10 official categories. Best of all, home cooks compete head to head with professional chefs for prizes totaling over $300K, the grand prize being $100K.
In order to compete you must place in one of several qualifier competitions. I competed in “Taste of America” where each state has a sponsored ingredient that you must include in your recipe. The Massachusetts sponsored ingredient was Traverse Bay Dried Cranberries and I took home first prize and my ‘Golden Ticket to WFC’ with my Pecan-Crusted Chicken stuffed with Goat Cheese, Dried Cranberries, and Bacon with a Maple Cranberry Cream Sauce.
Now qualified, I was off to Alabama in November to compete in the ‘Recipe Category’ where the key ingredient was chicken. Every chef (home or pro) can bring up to 2 sous chefs to work with them. I knew immediately who I wanted on my team. I’d known Rich Tretheway since we were 13 years old. We’d work together for the next 11 years, every summer, in a restaurant called Finn’s on Block Island, Rhode Island. His wife (to be later) and her sister joining the troops when we were 20. Those were many fun, crazy summers back in the day! After that Rich and Patty went on to own their own Block Island restaurant, Sharkey’s. Rob Tierney, coincidentally Rich’s brother in law, was head chef for many years at Eli’s on Block Island and boasts many other prestigious culinary roles including working with the Dom Perignon chefs. The A team. I must also not forget my husband Nick, Rich’s wife Patty and Rob’s wife Laura who made up our amazing pit crew and helped us lug our wares and ingredients, take photos, and provide the best cheerleading and moral support imaginable. … Oh and many fun and crazy antics still almost 40 years later…!
There were 38 competitor teams in the Recipe Category and in the first round, each team had to make two dishes in two hours. Every team had to make a ‘Structured Dish’ which was a chicken soup for our category and then a ‘Signature Dish’ which was any chicken dish of your choosing. We made a Chicken Curry Soup with Homemade Ramen and a take on my Taste of America prize winner, using dates instead of dried cranberries -- Pecan-Crusted Chicken stuffed with Goat Cheese, Dates, and Bacon with a Maple Cream Sauce over Sweet Potato Pancakes, Garnished with Candied Butternut Squash.
For two intense hours, our team worked seamlessly together and our food tasted and looked fantastic. That night the top 10 were announced and we learned we missed placing by only .0623 points! #11! However, we were super proud of what we’d accomplished as first timers.
Our 11th place standing landed us in a Super Qualifier Round where there was a mystery basket and we had to use sponsor ingredients to make a dish of our choosing. This was the first time that WFC had done this, so the rules were a bit ambiguous, but we ended with a delicious entry – Cajun Spice Rubbed Chicken Thighs Stuffed with Dried Fruit Stuffing in an Apple Fig and Six Pepper Jelly Glaze Over Fennel Jasmine Rice with an Apple Jicama Slaw.
We missed placing by less than a point, but our new addiction was sealed and we will definitely be back to compete and take home the prize in 2018!!
Me with Rob and Rich
My ‘Golden Ticket' to WFC: Pecan-Crusted Chicken stuffed with Goat Cheese, Dried Cranberries, and Bacon with a Maple Cranberry Cream Sauce.
Cajun Spice Rubbed Chicken Thighs Stuffed with Dried Fruit Stuffing in an Apple Fig and Six Pepper Jelly Glaze Over Fennel Jasmine Rice with an Apple Jicama Slaw.
Pecan-Crusted Chicken stuffed with Goat Cheese, Dates, and Bacon with a Maple Cream Sauce over Sweet Potato Pancakes, Garnished with Candied Butternut Squash.