WFC’s McCloud Adds Dash Of Panache To Saturday’s BBQ Brawl in Ooltewah

Wednesday, April 12, 2017 - by Larry Fleming
The BBQ Brawl is going to “kick it up a notch or two” for regional cooking competition on Saturday at Cambridge Square in Ooltewah.

The added panache for the much-anticipated grilling event will be the participation of Mike McCloud, the president and CEO of World Food Championships who is taking food competition to a never-before-seen level across the globe.

Mr. McCloud will conduct a training session for the competition judging panel for the day-long event that is offering $4,000 in prize money, but brings a lot more to the table.


Plus, there will be much-sought carrots dangling in front of competitors – two Elite Golden Tickets that will punch a pair of trips to the World Food Championships in Orange Beach, Ala., on Nov. 8-10.

Contestants, featuring top chefs and backyard cooks from around the world who have won qualifying competitions, will vie for top prizes in categories of sandwiches, barbeque, chili, hamburgers, pasta, bacon and desserts.

How vital are the Elite Golden Tickets to a competition to be televised by A&E Networks?

“We awarded more than $300,000 at last year’s WFC in Orange Beach,” said Mr. McCloud, a native Tennesseean who has offices for MMA Creative, his advertising and marketing agency, in Nashville and Cookeville. “That gets a lot of media attention throughout the nation. If operated properly, and I think we’ve created a Super Bowl of food competitions, this has a great deal of potential.”

The WFC conducts qualifying events across the country that lead to the championship event. And Mr. McCloud has made Ooltewah’s BBQ Brawl a WFC qualifying event and, as such, has drawn an impressive list of entries for the barbeque and steak events.

Participants in the barbeque competition are:

Third-Place Chicken BBQ – Jim Cheney, Barry Payne, Ooltewah

Poorboys BBQ Company – Randy Davis, Cleveland

Deep South Smokers BBQ – Randall Bowman, Cumming, Georgia

B&B BBQ – Bradley Marks, Chuck Stevens, Brian Watson, Chattanooga

Owls Nest BBQ – Steve Ray, Dan Griess, Ooltewah

Chef’s BBQ – Nick Thiers, Chattanooga

Two Twins BBQ – Jim Brewer, Willie White, Chattanooga

Full Throttle BBQ – Dennis Roby, Ooltewah

Shane’s Rib Shack – Chad Cox

Choo Choo BBQ – Shawn Causby

Entries in the steak contest are Justyn Brown, Roger Burrows, Andi Cagle, Jason Coffey, Joe Gora, Ray Ivey, Chef Dao Le, Antonio Tate and Leeann Pulliam.

Saturday’s cash purse for the BBQ Brawl is $3,200. The steak contest has an $800 purse.

The barbeque competition will have a People’s Choice winner and a Judge’s winner and each will take home $850. Second place receives $400, third place $250 and fourth place $150.

The steak division winner receives $500, second place $200 and third place $100.

“A $4,000 total purse is pretty good for a small-time event like ours,” said Ray, the Ooltewah businessman who is promoting The Brawl after Cheney, the marketing director at Cambridge Square, came up with the idea of hosting such a competition.

“Mike’s whole idea is to make these competitions interactive for the people and that’s what impressed me about him,” Ray said. “I went to three seminars he put on in Atlanta back in January at a (Kansas City Barbeque Society) convention. What really stood out was him saying, ‘There is nothing exciting about watching a 300-pound man watch a barbeque smoker.’

“When he gets here and takes over the judging, it’s going to be like a golf tournament when the PGA comes in and takes over. Get out of the way, they’re in charge. Everybody step aside, the big guy is here.”

Ray’s first experience of staging a barbeque contest came last October with the Lamar Johnson Classic. Saturday’s event, which runs from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., will be conducted on a grander scale.

Mr. McCloud’s participation is key to The Brawl’s promising potential.

“I think having WFC involved in an event like Steve’s is to add a level of legitimacy and fairness built into the judging process,” he said. “In turn, it verifies for teams wanting to compete in an event such as this a real reason to participate.

“At our tournament of champions last year we had competitors from 48 states and 14 countries. We had 1,200 contestants and it’s the world’s largest food competition with the largest prize purse that we know of in the industry.

“We’re actually creating the first World Food Games where it will be OK to play with your food. The growth and maturity of the event is exciting and exillarating and exhaustive for my staff. But it has been a fun and explosive journey over the last few years.”

Mr. McCloud, whose competitive events are presented on the EAT methodology – entertainment, appearance and taste – has called his cooking events a food sport, adding that his competitors spend just as much time practicing their trade and investing as much passion and money as professional athletes.

“They compete against the weather, against each other and individually against the clock,” he said, “to prove they have what it takes to be culinary professionals. It has taken off in a big way throughout the culinary landscape.”

To take his philosophy that cooking competition is a sport, Mr. McCloud says that within a couple of months the organization will release is first WFC rankings.

“Just like basketball or golf, we’re going to create our own rankings and we can talk about a No. 16 seed possibly upsetting a No. 1 seed. The rankings will be carried on our website at worldfoodchampionships.com.

While Ray’s experience has strictly been on the barbeque side of things, he is finding out quickly that interest in steaks is soaring.

“We’re going to have a 10-team steak competition,” he said, “and it’s going to be a really cute contest. It’s already as big a competition as the barbeque and the steak folks dominated our meeting last week for all the teams.

“We have some top chefs lined up for this thing. Roger Burrows, the executive chef from Ruth’s Chis Steak House, will be there.  Andi Cagle, the director of culinary at the Culinary Institute of Virginia College in Chattanooga and Dao Le (executive chef at the Whirlpool facility in Cleveland) are going to compete. Both are World Food Championship competitors.

“We’ve got a nice little mix of backyard folks and professionals and I’ve encouraged the backyard people to come out and compete. Pay $50 and join us. Everybody’s got a grill and likes to cook. We have Ray Ivey, who is the manager of Elder’s Ace Hardware in Ooltewah, who’s going to compete. The best thing I can see about this thing is somebody like Ray Ivey has a chance to come in here with his Green Egg, beating all these professionals and winning this thing.”

Ray said he had to “jump through several hoops” in his request for an WFC judge to participate in The Brawl in some fashion and was pleasantly surprised when Mr. McCloud agreed to appear.

Ray added that he made “some mistakes” in putting on the Lamar Johnson Classic. One, he didn’t have an adequate plan for the aftermath of trash and refuge. Second, he had no idea that people would be interested in purchasing barbeque.

“That,” Ray said, “never crossed my mind. Mike told me that’s a no-brainer. He urged me to get as many teams as I could get and let them sell, sell, sell.”

So, fans who will be able to watch all phases of the event, from the preparation to cooking and ultimately the judging, and buy barbeque on Saturday. Steaks will not be available for purchase.

Schedule of The BBQ Brawl events:

11 a.m. – Opening ceremonies, including Mike Mr. McCloud’s welcoming remarks.

12:30 p.m. – Mr. McCloud conducts judges’ training.

2 p.m. – Steak competitors turn in entries; judging begins at 2:05 p.m.

3 p.m. – BBQ competitors turn in entries: judging begins at 3:05 p.m.

4 p.m. – All People’s Choice votes are turned in.

5 p.m. – Awards ceremony.

(Contact Larry Fleming at larryfleming44@g

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