Culinary Student Earns Career Win With World Food Champion Title
For most culinary students, acing a final test simply means they are ready and prepared to pursue a real world career in the culinary industry. But for Preston Nguyen, a Sophomore at Dallas College, the final test he just aced earned him a massive starting bonus that will solidify his career for years to come.
With his family by his side, this 19-year-old student from Arlington, Texas just beat out nine other talented food champions in a culinary gauntlet called The Final Table, which was held in Lake Murray / Columbia, S.C., where he took home $100,000 and the ultimate title of World Food Champion.
His journey began in October of 2021, where he won his way into the World Food Championships’ (WFC) 9th Annual Main Event through a last chance qualifier, hosted by Dallas College.
The rookie WFC competitor conquered multiple challenges against 30 of the best chefs from around the globe, earning him the title of 2021 World Chef Champion.
This past weekend at the “Final Table: Columbia” event, he was faced with even more customized challenges with higher stakes as champions were eliminated each step of the way.
With $100,000 on the line, all ten Final Table contestants convened at McCutchen House, located on the historic Horseshoe of the University of South Carolina, for their first challenge. In homage to Columbia’s southern roots, Challenge One tasked contestants with creating a southern-style biscuit using South Carolina’s state flour – Adluh. Additionally, they were instructed to incorporate Adluh grits and another South Carolina favorite, Titan Farms peaches, into the dish.
Nguyen’s “Peachy Keen Low Country Comfort” dish –– described as a Seared Pork Chop with Peach Cornbread Stuffing and a Carolina Spicy Peach Mustard Sauce, Gullah Shrimp and Adluh Grits with a Peach Pot Likker Gravy and Old Bay Potato Crisp, Peachy Greens, Peachwood Smoked Watermelon Radish, and Peaches and Creme (Peach Biscuit, Peach Chutney, and Peach Chantilly Cream) –– earned him a tied score for second place with 98.25, which advanced him and four other contestants to the second challenge.
For the first time in WFC’s history, event organizers partnered with Capital City Lake Murray Country to host a Catch-And-Cook Challenge for the second challenge. Lake Murray boasts 650 miles of shoreline and some of the best fishing in the country. The five finalists met early at the Lake Murray Dam in hopes to reel in their fish for their next task.
When asked about his fishing experience, Nguyen said this was his first time “really fishing.” That, however, didn’t stop his success, as he caught Striped Bass during his one-hour fishing time.
Nguyen’s “Gullah Good Eats” dish –– described as Pan Seared Striped Bass with Hot Pepper Sauce over a Turnip Puree and Pickled Vegetables and Fried Turnip Green, Gullah Red Rice with Blue Crab, Carolina Chewies with Moonshine Cream –– landed him the third place position with a 86.75, just enough to advance him to the third and final challenge.
For the final challenge, event organizers tasked the three remaining competitors — Jack MacMurray of Missouri, Evette Rahman of Florida and Nguyen — with creating a composed quail entree. Manchester Farms, the oldest quail producer in the United States, provided the quail.
With his mom and dad as sous chefs, the culinary student aced the final test with his “Southern Sunday Social” dish, described as Fried Quail Lollipops with Hot Honey Glaze, Southern Quail and Dumplings, Deviled Quail Eggs, Carolina Boiled Peanut Caviar, Hoppin John Rice, and Good “Thyme” Cornbread Cake with Peach Butter.
Nguyen’s winning quail dish will soon be added to the menu of McCutchen House Dining. McCutchen House Dining is not only a restaurant, but also a hands-on training center for the University of South Carolina’s College of Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Management, which is ranked top ten in the country.
The culinary prodigy is now the reigning World Food Champion, 2021 World Chef Champion and a winner of more than $107,000. He is also the youngest competitor in WFC history to earn these accolades.
Follow Nguyen’s next WFC culinary journey as he prepares for its 10th Annual Main Event, which is set to be held in Dallas, Texas this November.
Stay up-to-date on all culinary competition news, by following the World Food Championships on Twitter (@WorldFoodChamp), Facebook and Instagram (@WorldFoodChampionships).
About World Food Championships:
The World Food Championships (WFC) is the highest stakes food competition in the world. This multi-day, live event culinary competition showcases some of the world's best cooks who compete for food, fame and fortune in 10 categories (Bacon, Barbecue, Burger, Dessert, Rice/Noodles, Sandwich, Seafood, Soup, Steak and Vegetarian). In 2021, more than 300 culinary teams from 5 countries and 40 American states competed in WFC’s Main Event. While contestants have to earn their way into WFC by winning a Golden Ticket at a previous competition, potential judges are welcome to take WFC’s online certification course that explains the E.A.T. methodology. Certified judges then request and receive available seats at the next scheduled WFC event. Click here to learn more about getting certified.
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