The World Food Championships

The World Food Championships is THE sport for food fanatics. It’s a competition in which the best cooks from around the world come to compete to see who can make food taste – and look – its absolute finest. The event has been known as one of, if not THE largest cooking competitions. In addition, these grand champions compete for hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The Wharf ferris wheel in Orange Beach.

Since 2012, the World Food Championships has provided a level playing field for all participants. The event includes both amateur cooks as well as professional chefs to showcase their skills in an innovative cooking competition that is full of creativity while maintaining fairness through its judging system!

Nearly 500 culinary champions from 43 states and 17 countries battled it out for a chance of winning the grand prize of $100,000 at the world’s largest food sport, the World Food Championships in Orange Beach in 2017.

That was the second year in a row for the event to take place at The Wharf in Orange Beach, Alabama. Ten category winners each won $10,000 before going head-to-head in the spring to see who would be named the ultimate food champ at the Final Table and awarded the grand prize.

Men wearing referee shirts.

There was a lot of action at the 2017 World Food Championships and “cheferees” were present to monitor for compliance.

Chef James Aptakin cooking in a competition.
Chef James Aptakin

Camera crews were there filming the event for an upcoming feature on the Food Network at this year’s event, capturing the excitement.

Camera man filming Chef Jonathon Scinto.
Chef Jonathan Scinto

Camera crews from the Food Network filmed part of the competition.

Black and white checkered plate with scallops.

The competition was open to individuals and teams from across the country and from around the world. To become a contestant at the World Food Championships, entrants have to win a qualifying event and get a Golden Ticket.

Man wearing a Team Canada shirt.

Local chefs also proved their chops and won the right to compete.

Chef Brody Olive shucking oysters at the World Food Championships.
Chef Brody Olive of Orange Beach, Alabama
Chefs being filmed at a food competition.

The competition was fierce, with both home cooks and professional chefs vying for the top honor. The contestants had a limited amount of time to prepare two dishes, one a structured build (a specific recipe that they could put their own spin on) and the other their signature dish, and have them turned in to be judged.

Chefs basting meat during a cooking competition.

Burger Championship – Pictures From the Field

Below are some shots of some of the entries in the Burger Championship. In every category, one dish had to be prepared for presentation, as well as additional plates for the judges.

Plate of grilled beef burgers on toasted bread.

Judging at the World Food Championships is a “blind process.” Once the dishes are ready to be presented, they are brought to a table and given a number specific to the entrant. They are then presented to the judges in another part of the arena who have no idea of who made what dish.

Man holding a platter of hamburgers.

Entries were judged using the E.A.T. methodology. Points are given for three categories:  Execution, Appearance, and Taste.

Person taking a photo with a phone of hamburgers.

Before being able to be a judge at the World Food Championships, one must complete the E.A.T. methodology course and learn how to evaluate “each dish on its own and by its own merit.” This means that a dessert champion could ultimately beat a steak champion and win the grand prize.

Barbecue burger with a green knife sticking in it.

Media Summit

I attended the World Food Championships as part of the Media Summit when it was held in Orange Beach. In addition to seeing the action as it unfolded and learning the E.A.T. methodology, I learned about Murder Point Oysters, a local family business that raises oysters in the Gulf of Mexico.

The folks at Murder Point love what they do and have proven that it’s a myth that you should only buy oysters in months that have an “r” in them.

From the time Murder Point Oysters are harvested until they are mechanically refrigerated is only 15 minutes. Every sack of oysters has a tag and that tag is kept for 90 days.

Man wearing a gray shirt shucking oysters.

After spending the day covering the World Food Championships, the Media Summit attendees broke into groups and visited local restaurants. I went to Lulu’s, one of my favorite places to eat in Gulf Shores.

Yellow bowl filled with black-eye peas and lemon wedge.

I highly recommend ordering the L.A. (lower Alabama) caviar along with tortilla chips. Best. Dip. EVER! If something sweet is what you are caving, the Krispy Kreme Bread Pudding should hit the spot.

Slice of bread pudding on a purple plate with a spoon.

Seafood Championship – Final 10

Lady holding a bottle of Blue Chair Bay Key Lime Rum Cream.

After becoming E.A.T. certified, I was able to be a judge of the Final 10 for the seafood category. The contestants had to create a seafood dish using Blue Chair Bay’s Key Lime Rum Cream.

Seafood dish on a brown plate with an orange fork.

Judging 10 great dishes was no easy feat. Remember, each dish was judged on its own merit – there was no comparing it to other dishes even in the same category. Before trying any dish, scores were marked for its appearance which accounted for 15% of the total score. (Thirty-five percent of the score was based on the execution and taste accounted for 50%.)

Bowl of Alabama Crawfish Thai Bowl with Coconut Gulf Shrimp.

The Seafood Championship Winner – Alabama Crawfish Thai Bowl with Coconut Gulf Shrimp by Kim Banick of Team Saucy Mama

Final Farewell

Gray plate with scallops.

The Media Summit attendees bid farewell at The Villaggio Grille where we enjoyed one last meal together. The 2017 World Food Championships might be in the record books, but Orange Beach remains a great place to enjoy the beach and dine at some fine restaurants.

Slice of layered strawberry cheesecake.

2017 World Food Championships Winner

At the Final Table, Lisa Gwatney won the overall championship. Her competition was the Invitational Steak Championship. She is a FedEx professional by day and a homecook in the evenings and on the weekends. Congratulations, Lisa!

Past World Food Championships Winners List

  • 2012 – Robert Butler
  • 2013 – Dave Elliott
  • 2014 – Ricard Heredia
  • 2015 – Loren Hill
  • 2016 – Kari Luke
  • 2017 – Lisa Gwatney
  • 2018 – Jacqueline Seavey
  • 2019 – Lidia Haddadian
  • 2020 (Cancelled)
  • 2021 – Preston Nguyen
  • 2022 – Liz Waters

For more information about the competition, go to

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