Chow Town

Local barbecue guy winning as competitive cook

Dave Elliott holding up the trophy after being named World Food Champion at the 2013 World Food Championships in Las Vegas.
Dave Elliott holding up the trophy after being named World Food Champion at the 2013 World Food Championships in Las Vegas.

Dave Elliott is a data analyst by day, and an award-winning cook and barbecue entrepreneur the rest of the time.

I haven’t personally met the Olathe resident, but I’ve heard of his culinary prowess and I have to admit that I’m more than a little jealous.

I first learned of Elliott in 2013 after he was crowned World Food Champion and presented with a $50,000 check at the World Food Championships in Las Vegas.

“I competed with my mom,” he said. “We were in the Dessert category. In the first round, we made a peanut butter pie. In the second round, we made cookies, which were required. Then, in the Top Ten round and at the final table, we made carrot cake.”

It must have been good, really good. Elliott and his mother beat more than 300 other professional and home cooks across seven categories to win the title.

For the uninitiated, The World Food Championships is an incredible culinary competition and food festival.

The WFC is sort of the Oscars of culinary competitions, with only the best of the best qualifying to compete and only the very best crowned winners in a broad range of categories.

Elliott was even better than that, taking home the ultimate trophy and title.

Elliott returned to Las Vegas and the 2014 World Food Championships. I was there at the same time, though our paths never crossed.

I heard through the grapevine he had done well, qualifying for the final table for a second straight year, this time in the pasta category. I later learned that Elliott finished eighth. Not bad, he said, considering he and his wife don’t make a lot of pasta at home.

“We made three different pasta dishes,” he said. “In the first round, we made a Pasta Bolognese with fresh fettuccine. In the second round, we were required to make a mac & cheese dish, so we made a Beer and Bacon Mac & Cheese with fresh macaroni.

“In the Top Ten round, we had to incorporate Alaskan seafood into our dishes. We came up with a fresh Pasta Carbonara with some Alaskan sea scallops, and then we decided to also use some prawns, which we sauteed with roasted chiles and garlic,” Elliott said.

It was a good showing, to be sure, but not nearly the same as taking home the grand prize. But, Elliott chooses to look forward rather than back.

He told me he took some of grand prize to start a barbecue company. Barbecue, it seems, is Elliott’s real passion.

“I’m getting ready to start prepping for the 2015 competition barbecue season with my team, Porky McBeef and the Cluckers,” he said. “Last year, I started PMB Barbecue Co. and we released our first rub, our Champions Choice All-Purpose Rub.”

Elliott said the company will be releasing a second rub sometime this spring.

“I have a couple of other things in the works, but the contracts aren’t finalized yet,” he said. “I’ll announce those once the ink is dry.”

So, what of this latent cooking gene that seems to have surfaced in Dave Elliott? It seems cooking really did come out of the blue for him.

He said he never cooked as a kid and didn’t even cook much for himself when he was single, though he remembers cooking a meal for his would-be wife when he was dating.

“I remember that it was Chicken Marsala,” he said. “I don’t think it came out that great, and it made a hell of a mess in the kitchen, but I think she liked the gesture.”

Elliott said he really got into cooking when he got into competition barbecue in 2010. It’s been a crazy ride ever since.

I asked Elliott for some advice for the person sitting at home reading this article and thinking, “I could do that.”

He was pretty straightforward in his response.

“If you have any interest in cooking in a competition, what I would say is to just jump in and do it,” he said. “I know it sounds cliche, but it’s true. Practice your recipes and practice cooking to a clock.

“Cooking to a clock, in my opinion, is the hardest thing about getting into competition cooking,” he said. “When you practice, be sure to take notes. Whether it turns out as a success or a failure, you need to be able to look back at your notes so you can see what you did right or wrong.”

As for his future, Elliott certainly has his hands full — a full-time job, a brand new barbecue company and I’m assuming, more competitive cooking.

I forgot to ask Elliott if he’s trying to qualify for the 2015 World Food Championships, which will be held in Kissimmee, Fla. I’m guessing he will. After all, the taste of past success is a pretty strong draw.

Oh, and then there’s this — the grand prize for World Food Champion 2015 has doubled to $100,000.

I’ll stay in touch with Elliott, and I’ll let you know if he goes and how he does. I suspect he’ll do very well.

Dave Eckert is the producer and host of “Culinary Travels With Dave Eckert,” which aired on PBS-TV and Wealth TV for 12 seasons.