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Journey to the 2015 World Food Championships

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

As some of you may recall, I mentioned last month to stay tuned for updates regarding a competition that took place this past weekend.  Well folks, this is the official announcement regarding the details and outcome of that competition.

But first, let's backtrack a little so we're all on the same page.

The past year-and-a-half, I've been introduced to the world of food competitions.  I started out with the Wisconsin Grilled Cheese Championship in 2014, and have increased the list quite a bit this summer after competing in several larger competitions with fellow co-workers (Sun Prairie's Bacon, Brew, & BBQ Fest, Chicago's Bull Burger Battle, and River Falls' Bacon Bash).

The difference between the grilled cheese competition and the three others I participated in this summer is that the latter are qualifiers for the World Food Championships.  That means that if you take home first in your category (which differ from competition to competition) or place in the top three for the rare Super Qualifiers, you gain entry to the World Food Championships.  The categories available for any of the qualifiers throughout the country include Barbecue, Chili, Sandwich, Burger, Dessert, Bacon, and Seafood.

At Sun Prairie, our head chef at work was able to take first place in the Bacon category, while our sous chef and I took second in the Barbecue category.  So at this point, we had one ticket.

A few weeks later, our head chef and I went to Chicago and ended up taking third place with our burger, so we were still at one ticket.

At this point, we were really banking on River Falls' Bacon Bash, since it was our only chance at a Super Qualifier event.  Our head chef took on Chili and Sandwich, our sous chef entered a second Sandwich, and I covered the Dessert.  This was the first competition where I was responsible for coming up with my own dish, so there was some added pressure to knock it out of the park.

So now would be an appropriate time to come back to the start of this post.

Just under two months ago at work, I was playing around with making yeast doughnuts, and due to their success, I was told that it might be fun to incorporate homemade doughnuts in the Bacon Bash competition.  But what else could I do to turn this from a breakfast item to a place-worthy dessert?

The common duo of coffee and doughnuts obviously came to mind, so I initially thought of making my own coffee-inspired drink, but why not go one step further?  You have a hot element with the doughnuts, so why not play with that and make some ice cream to balance it out?

After a lot of brainstorming, the final dish consisted of yeast doughnut holes topped with Nutella and served on top of two crème anglaise sauces (vanilla bean and Nutella) topped with roasted hazelnuts, as well as a scoop of coffee hazelnut ice cream with a dollop of vanilla bean whipped cream.  I was happy with the use of textures, temperatures, flavor, the "Dessert for Breakfast" theme, and the overall appearance.  The one thing I was worried about though, was how to transport and keep the ice cream and raw doughnut dough frozen for 24 hours on the road, since we would be driving up to Minneapolis the day before the competition.  After freaking out non-stop up until the Dessert heat began, I was pleasantly surprised to see that everything was still in good shape with the aid of dry ice.

At the end of the day, all three of us were extremely proud with how everything went down, and knew that we wouldn't have changed anything.  One of the Sandwiches ended up placing as well as my Dessert, while the other Sandwich and Chili both received extremely close 4th places.  Although it would have been cool if all three of us placed, there was more than enough reason to celebrate.  We now have three individuals and three entrees to represent at the 2015 World Food Championships!

So now that it's been mentioned quite a bit, what in the world is the WFC?

It is coined as "the largest competition in food sport", and is a place where culinary stars, home cooks, and professional cooks compete against each other for the ultimate bragging rights (not to mention some hefty cash awards).  This year it will take place in Kissimmee, Florida, November 3-10.  Here's a highlight video from last year's competition to give you a general idea of what to expect:

For each category, you're cooking in an outdoor state-of-the-art kitchen and are responsible for bringing the ingredients and additional equipment needed for three separate competitions:

  1. Signature Dish:  "Competitors will create their best recipe for judging within each category",
  2. Structured Build:  "This round separates the contenders from the pretenders by forcing everyone to create their own spin on the same basic dish", and
  3. Infused Ingredient:  "The top competitors in each category will face off for culinary supremacy using the same ingredient in their final category dish".
I'll be competing against 50 of the world's best dessert chefs in hopes of taking home the top title and a $10,000 grand prize.  No pressure, right?  Hah!

As you might have guessed, the next month will be devoted to brainstorming and playing around with the perfect three desserts.  The reality of everything is starting to really set in, but I'm ready for it.  It's events like these that we all need, to keep pushing ourselves out of our comfort zones with the end goal of constantly improving our crafts.

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