This month, chefs, pitmasters, bakers, cooks, and more from around the world, gathered for what is widely recognized as the pinnacle of food sport—the 2017 World Food Championships. The World Food Championships is the highest stakes food competition in the world. This multi-day, live-event culinary competition, sponsored by WESTERN Premium BBQ Products and Cowboy Charcoal, showcases some of the world's best cooking masters competing for food, fame and fortune.
The event’s sixth year saw talented participants representing 45 different U.S. states and 14 countries. Over 8,500 unique dishes were created, judged, and scored during the tournament by a total of 449 teams. This year’s barbecue portion of the contest consisted of two separate cook-offs—an IBCA (International Barbecue Cookers Association) event and a second KCBS (Kansas City Barbecue Society) event. Each cook-off sent their top five pitmasters on to the final BBQ Round. At the end of the weekend, Fred Robles of Rio Valley Meat BBQ Team from Weslaco, TX, was named 2017’s World Barbecue Champion.
“As they started calling the top five, I was unusually calm,” says Robles. “All I can say is I do not remember hearing my name called the first time. I remember everyone on stage turning around to look at me, and congratulate me. What a thrill to be joined on stage by my wife and by a bunch of folks I truly respect in BBQ.”
Robles's dish was called the "Surfing Cowboy." The 28-day dry aged cowboy rib eye cooked over WESTERN Pecan Wood, and served with a Yukon gold potato puree and a grilled shrimp en-brochette did the trick, pleasing judges palates enough for his first place finish.
“This event requires chefs to be able to perform at the top of their game,” says Mike McCloud, World Food Championships founder. “Fred not only made it to the top ten during his first attempt at the World Food Championships, but he came in and claimed the title. This will go down as one of his lifetime achievements.”
Clarence Joseph of Mama and Papa Joe’s BBQ, is another pitmaster who walked away from the competition victorious. Coming in fifth overall, Joseph said of the experience, “We had some very solid products at turn in and for the most part, the judges agreed.”
In the final barbecue round, the ten finalists have just one hour to create their best grilled or smoked item. The top ten geared up for heavy competition. “On Sunday we lit the fires and turned in a pulled chicken on a bed of cheesy grits and crispy fried chicken skin, said Joseph about his finals dish. “We were very proud of this dish and were rewarded with a fifth overall finish, really putting the icing on the cake!”
Both Robles and Joseph are sponsored by WESTERN Premium BBQ Products, one of the many companies that has helped push the sport of BBQ into the limelight of the world.
“We are passionate about this sport,” says Chadd Green of WESTERN, “and although we are so proud of Fred for his win at this event, it is his fervor for the sport and humble attitude that truly make him a champion.”
Over the next several months, Robles will prepare for the championship’s final level taking place in April 2018. He will compete against the grand champions of every other category—Burger, Chili, Seafood, Dessert, Sandwich, Bacon, Chef, Recipe, and Steak—to create a culinary masterpiece that rises above the rest at World Food Championship at the “Final Table”. At this level, there are no categories—just a one dish takes all. The winner receives $100,000 and the title of 2017 Ultimate Food Champion.