Unless the goal for this event—part of the World Food Championships—was to make most of the food average so the competitors would look better, the thinking behind Saturday night’s Feast Under the Stars was beyond me. The buffet-style dinner cooked by chefs at some of the top Vegas hotels (chefs were wearing jackets from Bally’s, Paris and Planet Hollywood, among others) didn’t do much to show just how talented our culinary champions are. While each category did contain a highlight, usually a more edgy dish, it was sadly the exception and not the rule on this night.
The feast was hosted by Travel Channel’s Adam Richman, and the program promised food that was “WFC category-inspired cuisine,” but inspiration was hard to find, as not much jumped out of the (hot) box.
One grouping in the competition was the World Sandwich Championship. This seemed like a perfect jumping off point for local industry chefs who probably cook and prepare more types of sandwiches than cooks anywhere else in the world. The bland offerings included a Philly cheese steak with hunks of beef that were too big, a mellow cheese spread and a roll that added nothing. The crispy shrimp slider wasn’t much better. However, the cold lobster roll, with its fresh filling and toasty roll, was delicious, good enough to be served anywhere.
The World Side Dish Championship inspired two of the best dishes of the night. Chorizo grits were clever and smooth, topped with creamy avocado that cut both the fat and salt. Toasted pumpkin seeds added some nice textural contrast. And a red curry cauliflower casserole packed some good heat with the vegetable easily standing up to the burst of flavor. But the shoepeg corn dip with Fritos wasn’t much better than store bought chips and dip. This was a missed opportunity where the chefs could have made their own chips or some other vessel for the dip to be served on.
Desserts continued the mish-mash trend. A chef-recommended dulce de leche cupcake was cloyingly sweet and didn’t have the layers of flavor you can find in a similar cupcake from Retro Bakery on the north side of town. The red velvet cake pop might as well have been made of real velvet because it didn’t taste much like anything. Again, there was one standout—a strawberry shortcake cupcake complete with whipped cream, fresh strawberries and a shortcake top layer that was a delicious, memorable bite.
But this is Vegas. This was the World Food Championship. Did we really need sliders and dip? The entire menu needed to be shaken up with more risks, a la the standout dishes. It’s a shame our chefs weren’t able to showcase their skills in a way befitting such an event.