World Seafood Champ among many titles on the line for 1,100+ chefs and home cooks
Orange Beach, AL – Alabama Gulf Seafood takes center stage Saturday as the the world’s largest Food Sport competition, held in Orange Beach this week, enters the final round in its search for World Seafood Champ.
A field of 43 seafood teams has reduced to the 10 highest scoring finalists, three of whom crossed paths at Orange Beach’s own Flora-Bama Yacht Club through the years where owner and award-winning chef Chris Sherrill has a knack for finding top talent.
“My former sous chef Paul Kerr, my current sous chef Haikel Harris, and our dear friend Rudy Rudolph are all in the Top 10 in seafood,” Sherrill said. “That was my plan all along — to show the world through the World Food Championships that there’s an amazing food spirit going on all along our Gulf Coast.”
World Food Championships moved from central Florida to the Gulf Coast after Flora-Bama’s Chris Sherrill won third place in Seafood last year, then turned around to recruit the event to his home town. Sherrill committed to recruiting a team of chefs to represent the Gulf Coast and ended up with 23 participating chefs.
“We went into it sort of blind last year and wanted to bring as many chefs as possible this year because we saw how awesome it was,” said Chef Harris, a member of Team Gulf Coast. “Chris Sherrill formed this team to promote Gulf Coast chefs — from Orange Beach, Gulf Shores, Perdido Key, Pensacola, and we also represented northern Alabama.”
“We just wanted to do anything we can to help these guys out, whether it’s camaraderie, or freezer space, or storage space, we’re trying to offer that up.”
The World Food tournament-style challenge is comprised of champions from qualifying events across the globe who then make their way through three rounds of World Food Championships’ challenges, in one of nine categories. Those categories are Bacon, Barbecue, Breakfast, Burger, Chili, Dessert, Sandwich, Seafood, Steak.
Top finishers in each category earn $10,000 and the right to compete in the finals where $100,000 in cash and prizes is on the line for the best overall dish. The event’s entire prize purse is $350,000, the largest of all competition cooking events in the world.
“The next round we’re going to be doing a creole dish,” said Chef Paul Kerr, Sherrill’s sous chef when the Flora-Bama Yacht Club opened years ago. “We’re required to infuse Goyo Adobo Light into our recipe instead of sodium so I plan to put my interpretation of that out there, tip my hat to creole country southern living and be true to that.”
The first round qualifying dish was scampi, utilizing shrimp provided by Alabama Gulf Seafood. Competitors were also required to use Alabama Gulf Seafood in the Category Finals. Competitors of all other categories had access to fresh Gulf crab meat, Gulf-caught red snapper, and Gulf-caught tuna.
“Alabama gulf seafood was happy to sponsor the seafood category for this event and to provide quality gulf seafood to the competitors,” said Chris Blankenship, of the Alabama Seafood Marketing Commission. “There’s just no better way to introduce our quality product than to put it in the hands of the great chefs here and let them create unbelievable dishes.”
With a full week of public events, more than 1,500 professional chefs, BBQ pitmasters and competitive home chefs from 48 states and 14 countries, Blankenship said World Food Championships has been a rare and attractive opportunity to connect Alabama and Gulf Seafood with the culinary world.
The Top 10 Seafood competitors include:
- James Aptakin, of Honolulu, HI
- Gregory Beaty, of Mt. Pleasant, SC
- Alex Eaton, of Jackson MS
- Roy Greiner, of Buffalo, NY
- Haikel Harris, of Gulf Shores, AL (Team Gulf Coast)
- Paul Kerr, of Tuscaloosa, AL (Team Gulf Coast)
- Rudy Rudolph, of Pensacola, FL (Team Gulf Coast)
- Edwin Vega, of Pensacola, FL
- Jernard Wells, of Grayson, GA
- Jesse Woodland, of Beaumont in Alberta, Canada
Celebrating its 5th Anniversary, WFC is staged through Tuesday at The Wharf, a resort destination with a full-service marina, retail, dining and entertainment options anchored by a multi-use event center and a 10,000-seat amphitheater. The majority of WFC’s food competitions occur in the WFC Kitchen Arena, which is promoted as the largest outdoor kitchen in the world, with 50 cook stations of Kenmore brand equipment and $100,000 worth of professional grills from Bull Outdoor Products.
All of World Food Championships’ fast-paced competition is being filmed for a multi-part, documentary-style cable television series to debut in the Summer of 2017.
The full schedule of preliminary and final competitions can be found at www.worldfoodchampionships.com/schedule. More about all of World Food Championships’ events is at www.worldfoodchampionships.com/tickets.
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