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March 25, 2019

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$300,000 is up for grabs in first World Food Championships on the Strip

World Food Championships Press Conference

Leila Navidi

TV personality Adam Richman speaks during a press conference for the World Food Championships at Bally’s on Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2012. The World Food Championships will be held at Bally’s, Paris and Caesars Palace from Nov. 1-4.

“This is one fast and furious whirlwind. This is speed at the rate of 450 calories a minute!”

That’s Food Network star Adam Richman’s perfect description for his first-ever World Food Championships that start Thursday and continue to Sunday’s Final Nine dinner table and the crowning of the world food champion.

Adam’s debut $300,000 contest for comfort food chefs is such a grand undertaking with kitchen kin and food celebrities, it’s stretched out at Paris and Bally’s, with the closing event in front of Caesars Palace.

“It’s the highest-stakes food competition in the world, and over four days, we’ll have chefs squaring off in multiple food categories: burgers, barbecue, chili, sandwiches, side dishes and finally the chef’s challenge,” said Adam, whose TV credits include “Man vs. Food” and “Man vs. Food Nation.” There will be hourly cooking demos, live stage shows and a food expo showcase.

In addition to Adam, who currently hosts “America’s Best Sandwich” on the Travel Channel and wrote the bestseller “America the Edible,” other food stars include Las Vegas’ Chris Hanmer, winner of Bravo’s “Top Chef Just Desserts”; Marc Murphy from Food Network’s “Chopped”; Elizabeth Falkner, runner-up on “Next Iron Chef”; and Eric Greenspan of “Next Iron Chef.”

Also, Kerry Hefferman of “Top Chef Masters”; Antonio Lofaso of “Top Chef All-Stars”; Myron Mixon of Destination America’s “BBQ Pitmasters”; Jeff Henderson, formerly at the Bellagio and now host of Food Network’s “Chef Jeff Project”; Nadia G from the Cooking Channel; Barbara Fairchild, former editor of Bon Appetit; and Colman Andrews, editor in chief of

World Food Championships Press Conference

Cupcakes represent the recipe category during a press conference for the World Food Championships at Bally's Las Vegas on Wednesday, October 17, 2012. The World Food Championships will be held at Bally's November 1-4. Launch slideshow »

The opening reception Thursday at the Paris pool benefits our beloved charity Keep Memory Alive. On Friday at Bally’s is the World Burger Extravaganza, Saturday is at Bally’s pool with a Feast Under the Stars with every championship category, and Sunday I’ll be one of the judges for the Final Table at Caesars.

Adam told me: “No other city in the world has the infrastructure of Las Vegas, so this is the be all and end all of food destinations anywhere in the world. This will be a spectacle, and the chefs we have competing are already like ninjas.

“I know Las Vegas is all about fine dining, but comfort food is making its entry into Vegas with favorite foods from all over America. You have it in all your buffets, but there are pockets of it off the Strip, too. Think of Hash House a Go Go off the Strip and at Imperial Palace, and its culinary merits are expanding right across the country.

“Everybody loves their meat loaf or fish and chips. Mix it with the culinary techniques of our time, and you have the food everybody really craves, wants and secretly eats.

Click to enlarge photo

Brannon Rees and Adam Richman at Hash House a Go Go on West Sahara in Las Vegas.

“These are the foods you can make at home. They are creeping onto regular menus today. So Vegas is in this overlap position of fine dining and street heavy. Even with the Vegas reputation for great chefs and fine food, who is going to turn down a truffle mac and cheese? … These are the foods that speak to the populace. We don’t have Reaganomics today. We’re not flush like the early ’90s, so this is practical food.

“We have the different categories that will lead to our Final Table of nine chefs with different disciplines and methodologies in their cooking. Our competitors are the highest rated, and they’ve come to Vegas with game on to play to win. They won’t hold their tongues back.

“They’ll earn the right to claim they’ve got the best barbecue in the world, the best chili in the world. … For Vegas residents and incoming tourists this weekend, it is a free event so we expect a huge turnout of food fans. Everybody loves to eat!”

Adam told me to add to the culinary excitement, he’s pitting professional chefs against average Joes and Josephines of the kitchen: “A hero can rise. Watch for the underdogs. It could be an accountant from Georgia who can win it all. So far we have chefs from as far away as the Netherlands and Puerto Rico entered. We started with 10 ,then 15 local Vegas chefs, and it may be as many as 30 when we start on Thursday.”

He summed up: “If you come every day, forgo breakfast every day. For four days, don’t even bother to count calories!”

Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.

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