This year marked the fifth year for the World Food Championships, the fourth time that Anthony and Christene competed at the event, and the first time they competed against each other in the same category.
A quick historical recap…The first year of the World Food Championships, 2012, Anthony and Christene competed together in the Burger category, finishing in 12th Place. In 2013 Christene qualified for the Chili category and Anthony won an online contest for a paid entry into the Sandwich category. Christene placed well with her Red Chili, while Anthony finished 9th, earning an automatic invitation to the 2014 event. After another winning year of chili competitions, Christene again won her Golden Ticket to join Anthony at the 2014 WFC. That year, Christene turned in an excellent Homestyle Chili, and Anthony improved his category standing with a 3rd Place Sandwich finish. After three years of nearly a full week of cooking competition, the pair decided to take a break from the 2015 WFC.
Jump to 2016. With no plans to attend WFC 2016, and just days before the registration deadline, Anthony and Christene both qualified for the Chili category the same weekend with individual wins at the Puget Pod CASI Chili Cook-off and the Washington State Tolbert Chili Championship.
Each year, contestants in each category are required to cook a Signature dish – anything they want to cook that meets the category theme – and a Structured dish – a required dish defined by the WFC. For 2016, the required chili White Chili, something neither Anthony nor Christene had previously cooked. With only a few weeks to perfect and submit their recipes, research, tasting, and practice went into high gear. Christene settled on chicken white chili and her well-received red with beans, while Anthony went with a spicier pork white chili and chili verde.
After nearly 8 hours of shopping, and scouring southeastern Alabama for their needed ingredients, Anthony and Christene and 28 other chili cooks – including two others from Western Washington – settled in for an intense four-hour first round. Each cook was required to put together and submit a tray with 5 tasting samples and one appearance bowl for each chili. The scores of the two entries are combined, with the top ten contestants going on to cook in the Top 10 round on the next day; the overall winner after the two days scores are combined cooks against the winners of the other nine food categories to determine the World Food Champion. The first round’s results ended with Anthony in 8th place, and Christene in 5th for her first appearance in the Top 10. Christene’s white chili was the highest scoring of the day, while Anthony’s tied for second a mere 0.75 points behind Christene’s. With awards finishing late Saturday evening, the scramble was on to clean turn-in dishes, buy more ingredients, and finalize recipes to be ready to cook early Sunday afternoon.
For the Top 10 round, Christene decided to stick with her signature red chili, while Anthony cooked a tweaked version of his white chili. For the Top 10, competitors were required to use one of several flavors of Goya Salsita hot sauce; Christene used their “Smoky Ancho” and Anthony a combination of “Smoky Ancho” and “Plenty Hot Jalapeño”. Each 2-hour long Top 10 round featured 10 judges, requiring cooks to submit two trays with 10 tasting samples and one appearance sample – too much for one person to move from the cooking area to the judging area. Fortunately two other Pacific Northwest competitors – who didn’t make it to their Top 10 Steak round – stepped up to assist Anthony and Christene.
At Sunday night’s Top 10 Awards, Anthony moved up three spaces to finish in 5th Place, and Christene jumped two to finish in 3rd Place. Fellow Washington State chili cook Frank Volz went from 6th to 4th Place. (In case you weren’t counting, against a field of chili cooks from all over North America, including the 2015 World Chili Champion, cooks from Washington State finished 3rd, 4th, and 5th!) The overall Chili winner, Liz Kraatz, scored an impressive 93.6667 in the Top 10 round to leap from 7th to 1st Place; Liz ended up finishing the 2016 World Food Championship in 3rd place overall.
Their respective 3rd and 5th Place finishes have qualified Christene and Anthony for next year’s World Food Championships. They will be taking lessons learned at the 2016 event and applying them to lots of practice to be ready for another shot at the title of World Chili Champion.