DRIVE TIME FROM LARGER CITY:
-Mobile, Alabama: 1 hour, 4 minutes
I have attended dozens of press trips throughout an equal number of years. But some of my favorite trips have included special events. I've enjoyed Fiesta San Antonio, Ann Arbor, Michigan's KindleFest, and holiday events in Fredericksburg, Texas.
During late 2018, our group traveled to Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, Alabama. Not only would we become acquainted with this gorgeous place throughout our visit, but our group would also serve as judges for the 7th annual World Food Championships!
The 2018 event took place under enormous white tents, only minutes from shopping and dining inside The Wharf at Orange Beach. During the WFC's initial nighttime event - a fundraiser dinner for Operation BBQ Relief - dramatic lighting decorated tall palms amid the quiet shopping district.
Drawing 1,500+ contestants from 42 states, and 12 countries, 2018 WFC categories included Bacon, Chicken, Seafood, Barbecue, Chili, Steak, Burger, Sandwich Dessert and (best) Chef. And the payoff for five days of intense competition? A share from more than $350,000 in cash and prizes.
Beginning on the following day, we had plenty of time to watch early phases of competition. It was such a blast to see so many talented chefs at work. Each of them had won other competitions, first (a requirement for participation). Tents were filled with excited voices, smoke and hungry spectators.
Some of the event statistics were staggering:
-50,000 pounds of food in the WFC pantry
-10,000+ social media impressions and 3,738 article mentions before the event even started
-the oldest competitor was 91
-the youngest competitors were 14
-more than 500 culinary teams...
.....created nearly 7,000 dishes for judging
377 E.A.T. Certified Judges participated, with our group receiving onsite training. I then watched several judging categories, before it was my turn. Although judging Desserts captivated my sweet tooth, the time went so fast! Each participant showcased a complete dessert before presenting a single portion to each judge. Within minutes, desserts that crowded the table before me demanded judging in three categories: Execution (35 percent scoring weight): Appearance (15 percent); and Taste (50 percent weight). Judging required a lot of quick thinking, for everyone.
If all goes well, the 2020 World Food Championships will take place November 6-10, at Dallas' iconic, indoor, Fair Park. In the meantime, here are more photos from 2018.
Please note: As a writer associated with the travel industry, I received complimentary admission, judge training, meals and lodging, for the purpose of this review. While it has not influenced this post, I wish to disclose all potential conflicts of interest.
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