Las Vegas is home to many “championships,” from boxing to poker and everything in between. Yet another championship calls Las Vegas its home: The World Food Championships, with $300,000 at stake for the winners. This true world class event has grown exponentially since its inception in 2012 and is the highest stakes food competition in the world.
The World Food Championships attracts professional chefs and home cooks from all over the world. The 2013 Championships had very spirited teams hailing from as far away as South Africa to see if they had what it takes to win it all. The world’s best competed in barbecue, chili, burgers, dessert, sandwich, bacon, recipe, and a chef challenge with the overall winner being named 2013 World Food Champion.
One may ask how you judge such a prestigious event such as this one. First, judges were hand selected by the Food Network, celebrity chefs, food writers, and other experts in their respective culinary fields. The World Food Championships judges identified winners in each of the seven key categories of competition. Once the champions of each category were determined they competed at the final table for the 2013 crown.
Over the last few years, the sport of competitive food has grown into a multi-million dollar industry and can no longer be ignored. There are recipe challenges, barbecue festivals, chili cook-offs and the thousands of other food competitions that take place all over the world that attract millions of hungry admirers and passionate cooks.
This year, more than 300 competitors and 20 food celebrities took over Downtown Las Vegas for a world class event like none other. After days of competition, Championship Sunday arrived with a very fun and educational culinary competition, the “Flip the Bird” Thanksgiving Challenge.
On a cloudless morning the inaugural “Flip the Bird” Thanksgiving Challenge featured three renowned chefs, each asked to create a holiday meal with bison (in place of turkey) as the primary ingredient. Competing chefs included Emily Ellyn, creator of the Retro Rad cooking movement, Giorgio Rapicavoli, founder and chef of Miami’s Eating House, and Rick Giffen, executive chef of Stratosphere in Las Vegas.
After a very spirited competition, judges Josh Ozersky, Sam Hazen of NYC’s The Chester and Roberto Treviño, former contstant on Iron Chef: America and The Next Iron Chef, determined the winner based on the taste, appearance and execution of each dish. The winner was Chef Giorgio Rapicavoli, with his three-course Thanksgiving meal, and he was awarded a $2,000 check.
“Until this weekend, I never associated bison with Thanksgiving, but that sure has changed,” chef Rapicavoli told us. “As the first-ever ‘Flip the Bird’ Champion, I have a new appreciation for bison and recommend home cooks incorporate it into their favorite recipes. It’s a great addition to any holiday menu and will be a big hit among your guests.”
Bison was a very big deal at this 2013 addition of The World Food Championships. The winning chili dish from Ray Bogart featured bison tenderloin and the winning recipe dish from Beth Peterson was an Asian hot pot of bison tenderloin and homemade udon noodles. Who says Thanksgiving is just about the traditional Turkey?
The 2013 World Food Championships brought the world’s best to downtown Las Vegas and thousands of enthusiastic onlookers. Having attended the event the last two years we have seen the positive growth of this one of a kind event. If 2013 is any indication, 2014 will be a weekend not to be overlooked.