November 17th, 2017
The World Food Championships in Orange Beach AL just wrapped up a week long extravaganza to name 10 World Champions in 10 Categories: Steak, Burger, Seafood, Recipe, Dessert, BBQ, Chile, Sandwich, Bacon and Chef. More than 450 teams from 14 countries and 40+ US states competed.
Each round started with 40 contestants leading to a top 10 round. The winner of the top 10 round is crowned the World Champion for their category and receives a check for $10,000 and a seat at the final table. These 10 champions will battle for a $100,000 first place prize money sometime in April in a national TV duel!
Last year Kari and Bryan Luke won it all in the steak category with an astounding 1st in the round of 40, a 1st in the top 10 and obviously 1st at the final table. This year Kari defended her title against an all-star cast of steak cookers. Fate (and odds) were not in her favor this year but she graciously accepted that and continued to help and volunteer for the rest of the week. That’s what champions do! She and Bryan joined Darren Warth’s BBQ Team and rode that to a 3rd place in BBQ!
We are privileged to have a lot of friends and champions using GrillGrates to prepare their dishes. We sponsored the steak contest and provided each station with a set of GrillGrates. The teams were not required to use GrillGrates. Many brought their own GrillGrates with them.
Kevin Legge from Canada brought his lucky seasoned GrillGrate that travels to every competition with him. Kevin’s route to the WFC took him through the Netherlands and Texas before coming to Orange Beach. Every cook at WFC had to qualify by winning a championship or grand at sanctioned events. Kevin traveled from Vancouver to Holland to win a SCA event at the prestigious Tony Stone cook-off. That win qualified him to compete in the SCA World Championship last month at BillyBobs and at the World Food Championships in Orange Beach Alabama. Kevin owns an IT company and his passion is cooking and competing. He reflects a lot of people who cooked their way to WFC- passionate, talented people who could be professional chefs but they are not. The other half of the contestants were professionals in some aspect- chefs, caterers, food service professionals. To us they all were professionals! The competition was fierce and extraordinarily friendly.
We enjoyed spending the week watching and supporting people especially in steak and burger segments. After the initial round, the top 10 finalists were called each evening at awards that coincided nicely with cocktail hour! The steak top 10 saw two Canadians at 1 and 2. Steve Perrin and Kevin Legge! Rounding out the top 10 were a few other GrillGrate friends including the 2016 World Championship Steak Cook-off Winner – Bryan Lewis. Bryan had a family entourage in tow including his daughter who cooked with him.
Lisa Gwatney was one of two women in the top 10 for steak. We met Lisa and her husband in Texas a few years ago. Lisa is an analyst for FedEx and she combines her passion for cooking with an analytical approach and brought home the title! Lisa is a perfect example of a World Food Champion. We’re excited to root for her at the Final Table! Congrats to Lisa and everyone who competed. Rounding out the top 3 in steak… Kevin Legge #2 and Bryan Lewis #3. There was some hollering on the stage and in the audience for all 3 of them.
Our attention turned to Hamburgers where we had 3 teams that we knew of in the opening round of 40. Two of them used GrillGrates on the reverse side and one rails up. The opening round consisted of two turn-ins; one structured and one free-wheel bring your best burger. I want a collage of those entries- it would make a fabulous poster. There is a reason why hamburger is America’s favorite grilled food and we saw mouthwatering plates one after another. Note to self: Be a judge for Hamburger next year!
All three of our burger contestants fit the colorful and talented theme of passionate professionals:
Damon and Lu Holter are professionals. Lu recently won 2nd at a national Hamburger contest sponsored by Sutter Home. She and Damon run Croix Valley Foods that includes their own line of sauces and rubs.
Doug Keiles makes his own line of spices and rubs and now makes and sells bacon in his spare time! Doug cooks in 20+ contests a year putting him on the road many weekends.
Dave Elliot was the 2013 World Food Champion! He too makes his own products and is a culinary professional. I’d say that was pretty stiff competition!
Congrats to World Food Burger Champion Tommy Shive. We need to send him some GrillGrates!
And #2 in the World is a heck of a win for Doug Keiles! I think it was your bacon Doug!
Meanwhile back at the GrillGrate hospitality tent we were slinging burgers too- Bubba Burgers! We put 30 burgers on the grill at once (don’t try that without GrillGrates). We placed half on the rails and the other half on the flat side. Our theme was Grilled or Griddled? We sampled everyone a bite of each. Keeping score on a chalk board was Susan’s idea and a grrrrrate one! We had a blast hearing people shout Grilled! Griddled! And we kept score. Grilled won 2 to 1! I personally went for the griddled. There is a big difference visually and in texture – inside and out. It was the perfect way to show how juices are handled by GrillGrates. The crowd was impressed by the Bubba Burgers and how they go straight to the grill frozen and grill or griddle to perfection in about 10 minutes on a hot grill… and GrillGrates!
The rest of the time at GrillGrate central we enjoyed hanging out with teams, judges, new friends, and a wandering public crowd.
We were right across from the Tasting Village (a big success) and enjoyed the view and meeting people like Bill who owns Bill E’s Small Batch Bacon. On Sunday, we shifted gears to quesadillas with cheese and Bill E’s Bacon. Michael filled the grill and griddle with bacon to cook and crisp. (hard and dangerous to do without GrillGrates) Then he chopped it up, added cheese and tortillas to make a simple and tasty treat. Proving yet again… everything is better with bacon!
Over the course of the week we did a couple of Facebook Live events, announced the winner of Friday Night Steak Club with our friends from GrillaGrills and just kept on grilling and chilling in Orange Beach Alabama. The WFC is one of those events that you are a little sad leaving because you just got to spend quality time with friends you don’t see very often- it’s truly hard to leave. It prompted me to write some of the good stuff down so I don’t forget!
The final chapter unfolded as we were driving home Monday morning feeling a little drugged. I called the office to find out who won BBQ as it was not on the website when we checked on Sunday night. I’m told Fred Robles of Rio Valley Meat Company who I did not recognize. I hang up the phone and see an Instagram notification… GrillGrates helped us win BBQ final! Click- its Eli Hernanandez-Falcon a bbq dude but I don’t recognize him but there is a call button… Eli picks up the phone and the noise from the radio and people in the truck made it hard to hear as they were hollering for us too! Turns out Ernest Servantes was part of Fred’s team along with Eli and Bobbie Filipp- OK that’s like the Traveling Wilburys all-star band right there! No wonder! Ernest sent me a stream of amazing pictures. As it turns out the top 10 in BBQ only had an hour and a half to prepare their dish. This ruled out traditional barbecue. It became a grilling contest. As luck would have it Ernest needed a set of GrillGrates for one more grill (they grilled their entire entry) and it was Fred’s grill! Another grate champion and a $10,000 check and seat at the final table! Looks like we’ll be heading to the final table to root on two grate teams! GrillGrates for the win!
This year marked the 6th World Food Championship and it really ran like a clockwork. 8000 meals were plated, judging ran smoothly and the atmosphere was delicious! Congrats to all who competed, judged, assisted and volunteered. GrillGrate, Eat Well and Win!
Finally a big shout out to the GrillGrate team! Chef Michael, Elissa and Susan worked tirelessly in the booth, at the grill, behind the camera, and at home! Renting a house for camp GrillGrate made the week a lot smoother and relaxing. I look forward to setting up camp GrillGrate next year in Orange Beach! Hats off to the city of Orange Beach and to MMA for putting on such a superb event!