Aug. 31—CORBIN — In a special-called meeting on Thursday, Corbin Tourism and Convention Commission met to discuss an enticing opportunity.
Tourism Director Maggy Monhollen was excited but warned that the subject for that day’s meeting was urgent and time sensitive.
“You’ve all heard of me talk about World Food Championship a little here and there,” Monhollen said, explaining that she could not attend a sports tourism show back in March.
Team Kentucky, the sports tourism group that attends different shows throughout the year to recruit sports into different communities, attended the show and was able to share a copy of all the leads because of Corbin’s membership.
“As soon as I saw the lead sheet, I saw World Food Championship, which is the world of food sport,” Monhollen explained, “so I immediately reached out to them.”
Monhollen added she has been courting World Food Championship since April. Conversations have included the idea of Corbin being a gateway partner.
World Food Championship is the “mothership,” as Monhollen called it, of food sports. Held in Dallas, Texas, there are multiple categories.
“It’s a massive event,” Monhollen emphasized. “People from all over the world come in and compete, whether it’s steak, burgers, dessert, et cetera. What happens is hundreds and hundreds of people come to compete in this competition. Then it dwindles down to what they call the Final Table, and this is the last competition, where a winner in each category is determined.”
World Food Championship would not be moving from Dallas, which is a much larger city and can cater to the crowd that is drawn to the large-scale event.
“What’s up for grabs every year is the Final Table,” Monhollen said, “which is on a much smaller scale.”
Monhollen asked the Tourism Commission to attempt to bring the Final Table from the World Food Championship to Corbin.
“It would be very prestigious for the city,” Monhollen said.
Existing foodie events such as Finger Lickin’ Chicken Week and Burger Week could also act as qualifiers for the championship, along with one other event such as a one-day BBQ or steak competition, with the premise that people could come in for tasting.
In talking about the qualifiers, Monhollen noted that this is the last year for the Moonbow EggFest — the event for Big Green Egg grilling currently scheduled for September 10.
Should Corbin be selected to be part of the World Food Championship, organizers would come in and teach a tasting, or judging, class to those interested in being judges. The new judges would then choose a winner from one of the three qualifying events. Corbin Tourism would then sponsor that winner to go to the World Food Championship competition in Dallas in whatever category it is that the chef won.
“We have an opportunity to bring the head honcho of the World Food Championship out to Corbin. They’re based out of Cookeville, Tennessee,” Monhollen said. “We have an opportunity to bring them to Corbin to do a site visit as the Final Table location.”
The Final Table would not be hosted until 2024. Monhollen is trying to jump on this now so that Corbin can be prepared for the Final Table when it comes time to host it.
“We have the facilities, we have the hotels, and we have the talent,” Monhollen added. “I’m asking the board for $5,000 in our budget to designate to World Food Championship. That would enable us to send three chefs or winners to compete in World Food Championship and it would cover the cost of the site visit for the Final Table. “
Monhollen then went to explain the reason for the sense of urgency. Monhollen has been in discussion with World Food Championship for a while now, and there is interest from another county in possibly becoming the Final Table and she didn’t want to pass up the chance for the commission to act as soon as possible.
Monhollen suspects that if Corbin were to be the spot for the Final Table of the World Food Championship, then the event would be held at The Corbin Arena. She would also like to have a tasting the day before as the actual Final Table event is a closed competition.
As this is truly a world event, Corbin getting the Final Table would mean that people from all over the world might come to the city. It would boost revenue and help to put Corbin on the map as a true food travel destination.
“It’s the prestige of Corbin being involved in the World Food Championship and having our talent compete with the finest chefs in the world,” Monhollen emphasized. “This would be national level advertising. This would be television channels that are prime time and national. This is really as big as you can get!”
“I think it’s another way to diversify our demographic and extend what we’ve already been working on as a food destination,” said Corbin Tourism Commissioner Kristin Smith. She also added, “And I love the idea of a public BBQ or steak competition. That has a lot of potential to bring people in because there’s not a lot of that going on in Eastern Kentucky.”
The Tourism Commission voted unanimously to pass Monhollen’s request for $5,000 in the budget for the World Food Championship.