2017 Taste of America Recipe Challenge

A few months ago I was browsing the internet for food contests, a new favorite past time of mine, when I stumbled upon the Holy Grail: The World Food Championships.

I had never heard of it, but I learned that WFC is the largest cooking competition in Food Sport and mother of more than 30 TV food stars (hello dream job!). From the moment I first knew of its existence I was obsessed with becoming a competitor at the 2017 WFC.

The fun thing about the WFC is that you have to win a qualifying event in order to register to compete, meaning its competitors are the cream of the crop. Unfortunately I was late to the game and missed a majority of the qualifying events by the time I started my search for a way in. One day I was sulking about my missed opportunity and browsing the WFC website and came across the headline “WFC’s Announces Largest Online Recipe Contest In Search Of America’s Greatest Food Champs” and knew that this was the chance I has been looking for! One lucky participant from each state would win a Golden Ticket to compete at the WFC and I knew I wanted it to be me!

Each state was given a designated featured product that residents had to incorporate into their dishes. Luckily the product for West Virginia was Bloomery SweetShine Black Walnut Cordial, something that I already knew and loved. The Bloomery SweetShine Distillery is one of my favorite places in West Virginia that just happens to reside less than five minutes away from my childhood home. The distillery combines house made limoncello and moonshine to produce their signature SweetShine, which comes in 10 delicious flavors.  

Their black walnut variety is actually my least favorite flavor they offer but my initial thought was that it might pair well with lamb. To be honest I had never made lamb and I don’t really care for its taste but I decided “why not?!” So for my submission I created a walnut liquor marinade for my lamb chops and the rest really just fell into place from there. I combined balsamic vinegar, my favorite ingredient of all time, with the walnut liqueur and some cherries I happened to have on hand to make a glaze for my pan seared lamb chops and then finished my dish with some toasted walnuts and a parsley yogurt sauce to tie it all together. For my first time making lamb it turned out surprisingly delicious! 

My dish looked beautiful in person but I knew that the photography needed to be on point to win the competition. A great artist and friend of mine, Maria Gibson, allowed me to use her fabulous art studio and props to photograph my dish, which I believe gave me the winning edge.

Lamb with a Cherry Balsamic Glaze
Lamb with a Cherry Balsamic Glaze

I am very happy to say that my recipe for Black Walnut SweetShine Lamb with a Cherry Balsamic Glaze won the Golden Ticket for West Virginia which means the Furbee’s are heading to the WFC! This November we will travel to Orange Beach, Alabama to compete against chefs from all over the world in the recipe category of the competition for a chance to win the grand prize of $100,000 and I could not be more excited!

Stay tuned for more updates and in the meantime see a modified version of my winning recipe here!