That ultimate prize is $100,000 and a TV contract for the winner. But the real winner may turn out to be Dallas. VisitDallas just secured hosting rights to the largest food competition in the world, and it will mean big business for the local area.
With a direct economic impact of over $3 million in its previous events and an estimated 7,000 room nights in local hotels, The World Food Championship (WFC) brings quite a food punch. The event will occur Oct. 16-20 at Reunion Tower Lawn, and more than 60,000 people are expected to attend this year.
“Dallas is the perfect destination to host the World Food Championships, and we are very excited to welcome Food Champs to Dallas,” said Phillip Jones, president and CEO of VisitDallas. “When it comes to competitive cuisine, Dallas’ status as a national food destination is on the rise. Recently, we were singled out by GQ critic Brett Martin as the ‘Next Best New Food City.’ Celebrity chefs such as Dean Fearing, Kent Rathbun, Stephen Pyles and a variety of others are keeping the constantly evolving restaurant and entertainment scene attractive and in demand.”
Now in its eighth year, the WFC has developed a “March Madness” type of playoff system that features over 1,500 cooks across America, and about 20 countries from around the world. The proposition? A prize purse of over $350,000 that rewards the best performance and execution of challenging dishes in what’s called “Food Sport.”
“Many have called this the Olympics of food or the Super Bowl of food,” said Mike McCloud, the founder and CEO of the event. “We call it Food TV on steroids. There’s really no other way to look at it, especially with 500 champion teams trying to claim the ultimate prize in our industry.”
WFC highlights ten food categories — from barbecue to dessert, sandwich to seafood — as its key verticals in the tournament, curating a major food event that pits home cooks versus trained chefs. This also includes traveling pro teams that make a living on chili and barbeque circuits.
“Most food events fall into one of two categories: either a “tasting” event or a single category of food competition like barbecue,” explained McCloud, who started the event in Las Vegas in 2012 before relocating it to Orange Beach, Alabama. “Our concept was to combine all of the key niches in food sport and produce a level playing field that included official rules like any other sport. For example, we use ‘cheferees’ and a time clock that will lead to disqualification.”
Aside from the competition’s passionate contestants, WFC has found a unique way to integrate food brands into its platform. In fact, last year it worked with a record number of 124 brands — including Walmart, which is now the event’s presenting sponsor.
“For a company in the food industry or retail space, we have a place to include them,” McCloud stated. “We build out incredible pantries for the competition, sampling opportunities for consumers and entertaining demos for foodies. We even feature winning recipes in ticketed tastings that go beyond your typical food events.”
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