From BBQ to Dessert

By Katy Ward
November 13, 2013
From BBQ to Dessert

Four hundred fifty competitors. Seven competition categories. One World Food Champion. To some people, this might sound like a dream, but for MidAmerica Nazarene University MHR 160 (‘08) alum Dave Elliott, it is a dream come true.

Over the past four years, Elliott has been competing in BBQ competitions. Elliott is the pitmaster of Porky McBeef and the Cluckers BBQ team and competes in 10 to 12 competitions per year. His team has competed in the MNU BBQ Competition since 2011, winning the competition in 2011.

He qualified for the World Food Championship (WFC) last Labor Day by winning the dessert category at the Septemberfest BBQ and Ribeye Steak Cookoff Challenge in Omaha, Neb., using a modified dessert recipe  for peanut butter pie that his mom had been making for years.

When Elliott was notified that he was qualified to go to Las Vegas for the Championship, he was shocked.

“I didn’t even know it was a qualifying competition,” he said.

At first, Elliott didn't think he could make the competition work with his schedule. He and his wife, Renee, have a 15-month-old son. But his wife said to go and take his mom, Janet Elliott.

“She’s a great baker and I used her recipe to win,” Elliott stated. “I thought that it was only fitting that she come and cook with me at the WFC!”

The World Food Championships is the highest stakes food competition in the world. The four-day competition has seven competition categories: World Barbeque Championship, World Open Chili Championship, World Burger Championship, World Sandwich Championship, World Dessert Championship, Bacon World Championship, and World Recipe Championship.

This year’s WFC featured a tournament-style cook-off process for each of its categories. The competition was split into multiple rounds: an opening “Challenger” round, a Category Finals round, with category champions advancing to the Final Table. Elliott won 7th place in the first round of the Dessert categoryputting him in the Category Finals round. Elliott won runner-up in the Category Finals round, but the winner of that category could not compete on Sunday due to her religious beliefs. As the runner-up, Elliott moved to the Final Table round.

“It’s amazing [about winning]!” said Elliott. “There were a couple of professionals competing. My mom and I are not trained; not professionals. We never expected to progress past the first round and then we kept progressing each day.”

A panel judged each dessert. Some of the judges included journalist Robin Leach, MasterChef season one winner Whitney Miller, Food Network show host Ben Vaughn, and “Famous” Dave Anderson of the Famous Dave's restaurant chain.

“The judges ate our food in front of us and we watched them judge our food,” Elliott explained. “It was nerve racking. One took three bites and then was shaking his head. We were thinking, ‘What does that mean?’ ”

Elliott made his signature dessert, the peanut butter pie, during the first round. He also had to make cookies, so he made chocolate cookies with three or four kinds of chocolate and macadamia nuts. For the final round, Elliott asked his mom to bring her carrot cake recipe. Since his mom is a wonderful baker, he knew the carrot cake would be the best choice.

“We were stunned when we won,” Elliott said. “After all, I’m a BBQ guy, not a dessert guy.”

When Elliott is not competing, he spends his time as a business insights manager for Acosta Sales and Marketing and resides in Olathe with his wife and son. Elliott's mother is a resident of Overland Park, Kan.

The World Food Championship will be airing on A&E in Sspring 2014 as a six-episode show. Read The Kansas City Star story here.