By Robert DeWitt (See the full article at alabamanewscenter.com.)
It was a foodie’s dream come true as 500 cooking teams and more than 1,600 competitors converged on the Alabama Gulf Coast for the World Food Championships Nov. 8-12.
“This is the World Food Championship and just like it sounds, it’s the biggest competition in the world when it comes to cooks and chefs,” said Mike McCloud, president and CEO of the World Food Championships.
The annual event crowns champions in 10 categories, with the champions taking home $10,000 packages in cash and prizes. Categories are barbecue, chef, chili, burger, dessert, sandwich, bacon, steak, seafood and recipe.
“If they do that, become champions, they’ll be allowed to come to what we call the final table, which is a $100,000 opportunity, which is the biggest payday in professional cooking,” McCloud said.
That motivates people to come thousands of miles to the competition. Craig Philpott and his family spent 23 hours in the air, flying from his home in Adelaide, Australia. He earned the right to compete in the barbecue category by becoming the Australian champion.
Orange Beach is a long way from southern Australia, but barbecue and barbecue competitions are pretty much the same “down under” as they are in Alabama, Philpott said.
The championships came to Orange Beach last year and returned to The Wharf for the second year of a five-year deal. The location has been ideal, McCloud said.
“It feels like, looks like and is a great community for these championships,” McCloud said. “We felt welcome from day one and I can’t imagine a better place to develop a long-term presence. I can’t imagine a better place to build an epic culinary event.”
Contestants prepare their dishes in the “World’s Largest Outdoor Kitchen” under a tent in an open lot next to The Wharf. McCloud estimates the kitchen includes about $300,000 in equipment, some of it owned by the WFC, some of it rented and some of it provided by sponsors partnering with the organization.
The event has an estimated $3.5 million economic impact on the local community and comes at a traditionally slow time for the tourism industry. It brings to town more than 475 registered and certified judges and 400 local volunteers assist with the event.
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