The Downtown Chili Throwdown ~ 2014 World Food Championship
The 2014 World Food Championship was a commercially sponsored competitive event that helped to fill prime time food network television programming toward the end of the Great Recession. Most of the individual food category event competitors were subject to being required to use the sponsors products in recipes or be subject to being overlooked in the judging process. However, there were two food category events where the contestants absolutely shun such a practice and these were the chili and barbecue competitions. Chili and BBQ chefs tend to depend upon secret recipes that they market themselves, so the use of some other company’s products would be an unthinkable act!
The Downtown Chili Throwdown event took place in the Las Vegas Downtown Events Center area one block south of Fremont Street. Fremont Street was where the World Food Championship main events were going on and this food competition arena was featured in a previous article. The BBQ and Gumbo competitions were also held in the Chili cook-off area, so being their was like being in hog heaven for those who like classic spicy American food.
The big difference between the two different food competition arenas was the chili and BBQ competitors operated within their own tents or food trucks, just like how they usually set up shop in the county fair and carnival circuit. Each chili and BBQ competition team represented their own company and their own cooking style. Every competitor showcased a top performing BBQ or chili recipe that was guaranteed to win and each had a signature spice mix or sauce to sell. The Downtown Chili Throwdown was a commercial event, but because entrepreneurs were doing the marketing, the level of attention getting tactics was greatly increased. As the old saying goes, the dog that barks the loudest will win the chili cook-off!
Interacting with BBQ and chili Contest competitors is always a blast, because these folks really know how to have a fun time. Part of the successful BBQ and chili marketing equation is shock value. The advertisements, banners, competition team attire and lingo spoken is all meant to draw attention to the BBQ and chili. The formula for success is the wilder and crazier, the better!
On the downside, every chili or BBQ competitor offers free samples of their products, which can be a scary thought. Not every food competitor is a respected professional food handler and many have never had a formal culinary education. Many of the team members that are selected for competitions are only tagged for the job because they excel in making sales, rather than being selected for great cooking skills. Some of the dubious competitors have no idea what food safety is, because their own ego overrides all else. To put it mildly, tasting free samples at a food competition event is like asking to sit on the toilet for the next two weeks. It is best for audience members to just say no when offered free samples of food and seek safer resources for snacks when attending a food competition event. This is especially true when ground meats are featured in chili, because of the risk of Escherichia coli contamination.
Chili and BBQ competition events are fun and there is plenty of eye candy to take in. For those who do not make their own sauces or spice mixtures, plenty of these products can be found in the competitor tents. Going to a chili or BBQ competition while hungry is not exactly a good idea, so be sure to get a belly full of good food before showing up! Other than that, an event like the World Food Championship Downtown Chili Throwdown is free entertainment at its best, especially if you are into classic spicy food!