Two Las Vegas residents are competing against 500 cooks and professional chefs at the World Food Championships on Fremont Street Nov. 12-18 for a chance to win $100,000.
Christie Vanover (of Zestuous) and Julie Hession (of PB and Julie) have competed in the Vegas-based event for the past two years. Hession placed second in the burger category in 2012, and Vanover’s grilled cheese ranked fifth in the sandwich category in 2013.
For 2014, the two decided to join forces and compete as team Viva Las Burger.
Since their competitors will be flying in from around the world, the team said it has the local advantage.
“We know Las Vegas,” said Hession. “We know where to source the best buns. We know how to get around downtown. And we can load up our cars with pots, knives and other heavy items without luggage restrictions.”
The burger duo has been working on its championship concepts for weeks, taste-testing burgers all over the city. The two were even invited to be the first customers at Bobby’s Burger Palace on the strip after Hession baked Bobby Flay a cake to celebrate his grand opening.
“The valley is full of amazing burger joints,” said Vanover. “We’ve tried dozens of burgers in order to develop the world’s best combination, all in the name of research, or course.”
Hession and Vanover qualified for this year’s event after winning a Kenmore burger challenge. Hession created a miso glazed Japanese bento burger, and Vanover made a pork shoulder burger with smoked pimento slaw.
At 11:30 a.m. Nov. 14, team Viva Las Burger will put its research and practice to the test as it competes in round one of the World Food Championships. The competition takes place on Third and Fremont streets and is free and open to the public.
Hession and Vanover will have two hours to prepare two burgers – a signature burger and a burger with select ingredients from Red Robin.
If team Viva Las Burger makes it to the top ten, they will then move on to create a third burger at 9:30 a.m. Nov. 16. If they win that round and title of World Burger Champ, they will compete in the final round for $100,000 Nov. 18.
“The competition is stiff, especially since we’ll be up against chefs and owners of well-established burger restaurants,” said Vanover, “but we’re ready, we’re confident and we’re hoping to create intimidation with a local crowd of supporters.”
Saucy Mama, a product line from Barhyte Specialty Foods, is sponsoring Viva Las Burger in the 2014 World Food Championships Burger Competition.
“Burgers and mustard – it’s a perfect fit,” said Vanover.
Saucy Mama sponsored Vanover in the sandwich category in 2013. She used their creamy horseradish and Dijon in her steak sandwich. She also used Saucy Mama Dijon mustard to create her Truffled Fonteenies.
“This year’s mustard selection is top secret, until after the competition,” said Vanover, “but the choices definitely add to the final burgers, hopefully elevating them to the top.”