There’s a food fight going on and Dallas is in the teeth of it.
The World Food Championships, the largest competition in Food Sport (and yes, that's a thing), has rolled into the big D and will be there until Sunday. The WFC is an Olympics of sorts, bringing together champions of previous cooking events to compete for titles – as well as for a share of hundreds of thousands of dollars in prize money.
And, notes the website, this is the era of reality TV, meaning “the World Food Championships is also the springboard for many up and coming culinary stars and home cooks as they seek TV fame through many well-known food shows and acting opportunities.”
The WFC was born in Las Vegas in 2012, where it was hosted by Caesars Entertainment for its inaugural year and produced by MMA Creative, a Tennessee marketing firm. Since then, the championship has moved around the country, working with tourism departments to develop a Food Sport network that features both home cooks and top chefs in tournament-style, timed and structured competition.
Last year, the event was hosted in Orange Beach, Alabama, on the wharf, where competition included barbecue, burger, chili, seafood, dessert, sandwich, bacon, chicken, steak and the World Chef Challenge.
So what does it take to host something like this? (And by this, we’re not talking about a local chili cook-off.)
According to the announcement about the upcoming event, a few boxes need to be checked off:
- A reputation as a national food destination on the rise (Dallas, for example, was recently named a top food city in the U.S.)
- A major media market
- Plenty of connectivity for air and road travel (and accommodations for all)
- Open space for competitions to be held
Optimal weather is another essential key, according to organizers. The event was previously held in November and organizers wanted it earlier in the fall.
"Moving to October has been a desire of ours for numerous years now," said Mike McCloud, President and CEO of WFC. "Since we are still a hybrid event, with a majority of our activities that must occur outside, we truly have to consider the best time of the season for Food Champs to compete in optimal weather conditions."
McCloud also expressed excitement about the event's new host hotel. The Hyatt Regency, a large, full-service hotel with both expansive indoor and outdoor facilities, is an iconic structure in the downtown Dallas area.
The term, food sport, is likely to give people pause – just as esports has. However, notes Jesse Palmer, NFL-quarterback-turned-Food-Network-personality, the competitive structure is transferable. And Palmer, who has hosted the Holiday Baking Championship, would know.
“This show really felt like a sport,” Palmer noted, “It is a competition. There are winners and losers, cash prizes, a title at the end of the show. I'm the play-by-play sideline reporter and color analyst.”
So what does it take to produce? How about to host? There are, of course, resources everywhere –in fact, a 101 guide can be found here. (Be warned, however, as it’s a veritable dissertation.
So what can we expect to see out of Dallas this week and weekend? Plenty. In fact, the sports commission sent over some fun facts – just in case you’re interested in finding out what’s going on by the numbers
- More than 100,000 lbs. of food will be shipped in and cooked up for attendees during the event
- Almost 6,000 professional food entries will be served
- 1,500+ contestants (ranging from home cooks to chefs to pro teams) will attend from 40+ states and 15 countries
- Nearly 500 teams will compete in cooking competitions throughout the five-day tournament
- 450+ volunteers will assist in operations
- 230+ professionally trained E.A.T.™ food judges will determine the winners
- 170+ companies will be featured throughout the championship
- 50 suppliers will serve out FREE samples in the Walmart Tasting Pavilion
- 32 companies will showcase new culinary gadgets and trends in The Innovation Station
- 30+ unique cooking demos will be performed on The Demo Stage featuring MAXimus (as seen on Gordon Ramsay’s 24 Hours To Hell And Back)
- 20 returning WFC Category Champions who will attempt to defend or reclaim their world food titles
- 16 Texas-based companies will be introduced to VIP patrons through WFC’s Lone-Star Showcase
- 11+ local universities and high school culinary programs will be assisting the organizers and contestants during events like Bourb’N’Que and The Grand Tasting
- WFC will conduct 10 championships in the world’s largest outdoor Kitchen Arena
- 10 “cheferees” will make sure that the rules and regulations are being followed throughout the food fight
- Five kid entrepreneurial companies will be selling their products during the event
- Four different TV film crews will be covering and capturing the activities for different shows on national and international networks
- Two former multi-sport, pro-athletes are coming to grab a taste of the Food Sport action.
- One mobile app will provide foodies all the necessary details during the five-day event.