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My Life as a Judge at the World Food Championships


My Life as a Judge at the World Food Championships
By Bob Barnes 

Last month I had the privilege and honor to judge at the 2nd annual World Food Championships. This is called the World Food Championships for a reason, as all entrants must have already proven themselves to be the best in a previous competition to be allowed to compete, and with $300,000 in prize money, it certainly attracts the best of the best. After applying months earlier I happily received notification that I had been selected, one of a group of 300-plus selected from a pool of more than 1,000 applicants. My assigned categories were Sandwiches and Burgers, a selection I was quite pleased with.

The first leg of my judging experience was being treated to a reception held at the Golden Nugget pool, which was a chance to rub elbows with the hundreds of competitors and other judges while enjoying treats that included margaritas, marinated quail, meatballs and tacos enhanced with a whole roasted pig.

The next day when I arrived to judge I was directed to a tent where I met other judges hailing from all over the country and all walks of life, all of who were as delighted as myself to be selected and one even saying it fulfilled a bucket list for her. As for the judging, the process was very straightforward. Each dish was judged on a scale of 1 to 10 in areas of appearance, taste and execution, with the execution being about overall impression and if it worked or not. We learned that the ratio of competitors to judges was one to one and were admonished to not discuss the entries while judging them. We were seated randomly in groups of four and given four dishes to judge in each round. A table captain received a tray of dishes for us, and presented a larger display for us to appraise its appearance before we all were given a sample to judge. I quickly learned to pace myself, which proved difficult on those entries that were increasingly hard to put down. While the first round was anything goes, the second round was structured, with a stipulation to make a specific type for the category (e.g. in sandwiches it was grilled cheese and in burgers a patty melt).

In each of the four rounds I judged I found all entries to be enjoyable but in each a favorite was evident, and thankfully we got to keep the remnants to nibble a bit more after turning in our scoring sheets.

An unexpected component of the judging experience was being filmed and interviewed by the CORE Media Group's SHARP Entertainment film crew filming a documentary to be aired in 2014. The film crew was cordial and careful not to get in our way, and those of us lucky enough to be interviewed had a chance for our 15 minutes of fame.

A handful of celebrity judges were in our ranks, including Chef Vic "Vegas" Moea (TV regular and owner of Vic's restaurant) and our own LVFNB Pro Publisher & Creative Director Juanita Aiello.

The WFC appears to have found a home in Las Vegas, and it has grown exponentially in attendance and exposure with the downtown Fremont Street Experience location making it more easily accessible to the public. While this was my inaugural judging experience, I sincerely hope it will be the first of many. 

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