With spatulas, mixing bowls and their secret ingredients in hand, two local food experts are in Las Vegas to compete in the elite World Food Championships.
Todd Beard, of Lebanon, and Russ Lannom, of Mt. Juliet, join 489 other home cooks, culinary experts and chefs through Nov. 18 in "sin city" for the annual, nationally-known competition. However, their attention will focus on winning recipes, rather than gambling.
Beard and Lannom join five other competitors from the Nashville area, along with some the world's best cooks and chefs to compete for up to $300,000.
The annual contest pits 'Joes' and 'Pros' on a qualifying playing field to battle it out and win hundreds of thousands of dollars, and the coveted title of World Food Champion.
Ironically, Beard, owner of Blue Moon BBQ in Lebanon, qualified his way into the competition at the Wilson County Fair in September, not with his famous barbecue, but with his equally famous dessert.
"Yes, we clinched entry with our "Goo Goo Golly Miss Molly recipe," said Beard. Goo Goo Cluster company (the maker of the renowned, quintessential chocolate and peanut cluster of the south) sponsored the fair competition.
"We took 3rd," said Beard.
He explained he, Lannom and the other competitors can compete in only one category in this week's contest, however, each participant cooks each day in different categories within their main signature category.
While there are several other "money categories" to compete in to entice contestants, the only qualifying categories for Beard are the signature item entry and a New Orleans-themed entry.
Beard said for the New Orleans theme he would cook a bread pudding with white chocolate sauce. He's leaning toward his mini apple bunt cake with sauce for his signature dish entrée.
"Competing against the 50 great cooks in my category from across the country is a huge honor," said Beard. "I hope we do well and make all of our loyal customers in Lebanon proud."
Lannom is competing in the World Barbecue Championship category. He competed at a recent auxiliary barbecue competition event and part of his winning entry for first place, thus entry into the World competition, was Chorizo Fiesta Corn Salad. This week he'll compete for place out of 20 teams, won $250 and a chance to compete in Las Vegas," bonus money in the Cornish Hen round, paired with best potato salad. He'll also compete in the non-qualifying round with surf and turf.
However, to get the top prize, Lannom will enter his famous barbecue in the brisket, pork and ribs round. Because he's using his celebrated Granny's Sauce, he feels "we have a really good chance to be in the top barbecue teams."
"You never know when you go for the gold," he said. "Last year the overall winner was a dessert, and the year before was in the hamburger category."
He said many of the other barbecue competitors would actually use his celebrated "Granny's Sauce," on their entrees. His wife's grandmother created Granny's Sauce in 1950.
"The sauce is vinegar and tomato-based with 12 blended spices and peppers, to include orange marmalade, peach preserves and brown sugar," said Lannom. "It's been perfect with today's flavor profiles to create an award-winning barbecue sauce."
Following a tournament-style format across nine iconic food categories - BBQ, chili, burger, sandwich, dessert, bacon, pasta and seafood - competitors will battle for their chance to claim the World Food Champion title.
Lannom and Beard said they hoped they "gambled" on the perfect recipe entrees and the roll of the 'cooking dice' proves each a winner.
Writer Laurie Everett may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Todd Beard's Goo Goo Golly Miss Molly dessert
1 1⁄2 cups vegetable oil
2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups white sugar
1⁄2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoons baking powder
1 1⁄2 teaspoons salt
6 cups marshmallows
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon peanut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups heavy whipping cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons confectioner's sugar
1⁄2 cup peanuts (finely chopped)
1⁄2 cup caramel sauce
1⁄2 cup chocolate sauce
12 original Goo Goo Clusters
10-12 6 oz. Mason jars
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 2 (24-count) mini muffin pans with non-stick cooking spray. In a large bowl, whisk eggs and vegetable oil until well blended. Combine the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt. Stir into egg mixture. Drop by tablespoons in to muffin pans.
Bake in preheated oven 9-11 minutes or until center is almost set. Take 3 Original Goo Goo Clusters and chop into small pieces. Removed brownies from oven and press a chopped Goo Goo piece in the top of each brownie. Return to oven for 2-3 minutes.
Combine marshmallows, water and peanut butter in a microwave safe bowl. Heat in microwave 30 seconds. Add vanilla and stir. Mixture should be pourable. Additional seconds in the microwave may be needed to get a pourable consistency.
Pour heavy whipping cream into a mixer. Mix on medium to high speed until soft peaks begin to form. Add confectioners sugar and vanilla extract. Continue beating until soft peaks form. Finely chop Peanuts. Finely chop remaining Goo Goo Clusters.
Break up brownies into 1-inch pieces and place in bottom of mason jars. Cover with 2-3 tablespoons of marshmallow mixture. Top with chopped Goo Goo Cluster pieces. Add another layer of brownie pieces. Top with whipped cream. Garnish with caramel and chocolate sauce and finely chopped peanuts. Cut a wedge from a Goo Goo Cluster and garnish top of jar.
Russ Lannom's Fiesta Corn Salad
4 small cans of whole corn, strain juice
Add 1 full cup of Hellmann's mayo
Add 1 1⁄2 cups of cheddar cheese
Add 1⁄4 cup of Dales marinade
Mix together, then spread evenly in a pan and chill in refrigerator. Just before serving, add 1 bag of crushed Fritos evenly across the top and serve.