When I was selected to attend the 2016 Food Bloggers Summit in conjunction with the World Food Championships in Orange Beach, I was thrilled. Even though I don’t technically consider myself a food blogger, I have written a lot about food and restaurants here and in other publications, and I have 45+ years of experience being a cook in my own home. And with the growing interest in and popularity for the Food Channel on TV, I couldn’t wait to get an up close view of what great chefs were doing.
To add to my excitement, I learned that on the last day of the summit, we as participants would be invited to attend a judging certification class and be seated as judges for the first round of the dessert competition. DESSERTS. Did you hear me? For a fluffy, prissy, Southern grandmother, that session had my name written all over it. Bring on the sweets!!
Well, it didn’t take long to learn that there is much more to being a judge than just tasting a dish and giving it a thumbs up or a thumbs down. The World Food Championships uses the E.A.T. judging criteria. 35% of the score is based on EXECUTION, 15% on APPEARANCE, and 50% on TASTE. Each entry was to be judged on its own merit, ranking it on a scale of 1 to 10 in each of those three categories, and it was NOT TO BE COMPARED to any of the other dishes. Believe me, that is much harder than it seems. Especially when 5 different dishes are presented in a very quick procession. While we were at the judging class, we were asked to score two different chef-made burgers. Look at the ones we sampled. I was starving. They were both amazing, but if you look closer, there are subtle and specific ways to judge a superior burger. Color, combination of ingredients, even the size of the bun had to be considered. I don’t know which one ended up with the highest score, because we had to hurry on to the actual competition. But, I will say that both chefs created wonderful burgers. Oh, and as a side note, no, we weren’t expected to eat ALL of both burgers. Mercy, no! We were given much smaller sections of each one to taste.
There were 37 teams of chefs competing in the dessert competition, and 8 different teams of judges were seated to rate the entries. I would love to have seen and sampled all 37 entries, but I doubt that ANYONE could handle that much dessert! Talk about a sugar rush!
The first category was called the Structured Build. The chefs were told in advance that they would be expected to submit their version of orange crepes for this round. Look at the variations on that same theme that my team had to score.
This chocolate crepe was delicious, and the fresh orange gave a great flavor balance.
What a pretty dish this one was! It got very high scores for appearance.
Orange crepes in sushi form? Only a very imaginative chef would have thought to do that.
One team decided to go very traditional, but I don’t have a photo to share of that one. You would have had to taste each one, I realize, but based on appearance alone how would you have rated these entries?
Then, the chefs were given a certain amount of time to present their Signature Dessert. Some of these photos were fuzzy because the desserts were whizzing by, but maybe you can get some idea about the wide variety. My team judged 5 dishes in this round.
In a last-minute serendipity, Steve was allowed to take the judging class and judge with a different team in this dessert competition, too. Since we are now both E.A.T. certified, I hope we will have more opportunities to judge in the future. Other categories besides desserts, by the way, were bacon, barbecue, steak, chili, seafood, burgers, sandwich and recipe creation. Are there any budding chefs out there who want to enter in 2017? Check the website for lots of information. You can even see a list of this year’s participants and the scores of the Top 10 in each division.