A day in the life of a food judge

Entries in the Recipe, signature category ranged from desserts to Mediterranean favorites.

By Michelle Price
Special to the UCBJ

DALLAS – Is there anything more fun than getting to judge the best food that prize winning chefs have to offer? I think not! 

Food sport is a new concept to many, but to those who have been certified as food judges, it can be nirvana. And nirvana was truly what I experienced when I was selected to judge three events at the World Food Championships (WFC) in Dallas this past weekend. What is it like being a food judge? Come along and let me share what a day at WFC was like. 

I was up early Friday to travel to Dallas’ Fair Park, this weekend’s home of the WFC. After parking and checking in at the front gate, I was free to stroll through the BBQ Ranch area, tasting grilled treats, before heading inside to check in with Debby, the coordinator of judges.

I was assigned to judge three categories, but only two were on the first day of competition – Seafood, signature and Soup, structure. I also drew the highly coveted Recipe, signature category, which was judged on Sunday. 

Entries from the Seafood, signature round.

After checking in, I was instructed to be back at the judges’ station 20 minutes before the judges meeting to ensure that my seat was secured.

My first category was the Seafood, signature, which means that the competition is open to anything the chef wants to prepare. Each judge was presented four different entrees to judge.

All judging is done using the EAT methodology. Entries are not judged against each other, but instead are judged solely against itself. 

The four entrees that I was judging in this category ranged from a stuffed salmon that wasn’t quite stuffed to a sea scallop on risotto topped with caviar. 

My afternoon category was Soup, structured, meaning that all the soups competing had to be a type of chowder and had to include turmeric and heavy cream in its ingredients. 

Entries from the soup category I judged.

Again, three out of four were on their game, while the fourth just wasn’t quite up to championship form. There were two clear favorites from those I judged. Two that just met all my expectations of a true competitive entry. The corn chowder served with three corn fritters was superb, as was the fiesta chowder. 

I’m not sure what the other tables had to judge, but from what I personally judged, the competition was going to be stiff. 

Unfortunately, I can’t tell you where the dishes I judged placed. Each entry is identified with only an item number and there is no way for a judge to tell who the chef was that prepared the item. 

At the end of the day, my first experience as a food judge had been an excellent adventure in culinary delights. I had tried things that I never would have normally chosen but was amazed at the flavors these chefs had created. One thing is for sure, I can’t wait to sign up to judge again next year.  

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