2018 World Chicken Championship – Opening Round + Recipe

Some of the ingredients in this post were provided by Melissa’s Produce, Springer Mountain Farms, Bolner’s Fiesta Brand, and Happy Chef but the opinions expressed here are my own.

Our morning started early as we loaded up on carbs and caffeine at the hotel breakfast in anticipation of the day’s events. Although it was my second year of competition, I couldn’t shake the nervousness. It was a bit of a relief that we were only 8 minutes from The Wharf this time, versus the previous year’s hour-long trek to the venue. With our kitchen tools and ingredients packed up, it was time to head into battle, Battle: Chicken!
We got there early and sat at one of the picnic tables outside the Kitchen Arena. We started seeing other teams arriving. That’s when a sudden realization washed over me. I had forgotten my Happy Chef chef coat in our hotel room!!! My hubby came to the rescue and was back with my chef coat just in time for the cook’s meeting. Geez! I need to put this on the packing list next time!
Credit: World Food Championships
The World Chicken Championship Opening Round is 2 hours of live cooking. The first hour is the Structured Build. For the chicken category, the structured dish was Chicken Parmesan, defined as “A piece of chicken that is topped with tomato sauce, mozzarella, parmesan or provolone. Chicken can be prepared in various ways that include, but are not limited to, breaded, fried, or baked.” The second hour is the Signature Dish where it is the competitor’s choice, as long as it fit the theme of chicken to receive maximum points.
In preparation for the Chicken Parmesan Structured Build, I had to test the recipe. Being a food writer, I was fortunate to have sampled this dish in restaurants all over the country. Now it was time to prepare it in my own kitchen. After preparing a generic version of Chicken Parmesan, it was time to think a little outside of the box. After a month of testing, I finally got it down to a recipe I was happy with. Then, I started playing with presentation. How do I present it, so it looks appetizing? What kind/size of plates do I use? How big or small should I make the presentation piece and judges’ samples? Keep in mind the presentation plate and 5 judges’ samples need to fit on one 20” x 13.75” oval silver platter and nothing can extend more that 3 inches off the edges or elevated more than 3 inches above the platter.
After months of practice, it was time to show the judges my take on a Chicken Parmesan. Everyone has seen a typical chicken parmesan – breaded chicken breast topped with marinara sauce and melted mozzarella cheese served with or atop a bed of pasta. I took all the elements of a chicken parmesan but baked it in a pastry dough as you would a beef wellington. The outside of the pastry had a golden baked shine, criss-crossed with golden brown shredded parmesan, and dotted with thinly sliced tomatoes and black olives. My Chicken Parmington scored 97.5 out of 100.
Chicken Parmington by OC Food DivaServes 4
Ingredients:½ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano-Pecorino Romano blend1 tbsp Bolner’s Fiesta Brand granulated garlic powder1 tbsp dried oregano1 + ¼ tsp Kosher salt½ tsp Bolner’s Fiesta Brand ground black pepper4 Springer Mountain Farms Boneless Skinless chicken breasts12 slices provolone cheese4 oz. can, sliced black olives2 cans Pillsbury Crescent Dough Sheets 24 oz. jar Bertolli Organic Basil & Garlic sauce2 large eggs2 cups shredded parmesan1 Roma tomato, firm, thinly sliced for garnishBasil leaves, for garnishOregano leaves, for garnishCherry tomatoes, for garnish
Directions:Preheat oven to 350°F.Line baking sheets with parchment paper.In a large bowl, add grated parmesan cheese, granulated garlic, dried oregano, 1 tsp kosher salt, and pepper. Toss to combine, then set aside. Thinly slice tomatoes. Place between paper towels and set aside.Cut chicken breasts in half, pound to ½” thick, and trim into 4” squares. In small bowl, whisk eggs with ¼ tsp salt. Set aside.Unroll crescent roll dough and cut in half. Flatten with hands on parchment paper. Cut dough in half to make 2 squares.Place 3 slices provolone cheese in the center of crescent roll dough square. Place 2 tablespoon of sauce (at room temperature) on top of cheese.  Layer on 1 tablespoon olives and 1 tablespoon parmesan mixture. Top with chicken breast and 1 tablespoon parmesan mixture. Fold up opposite corners of the dough to wrap up the chicken. Pinch up seams and any holes that might have opened while stretching dough around chicken. Flip over and place on parchment paper so that seams are facing down. Brush outside with egg wash. Place thinly sliced tomatoes in a flower petal pattern from center. Sprinkle shredded parmesan and olives on top.Bake for 30 minutes. Heat remaining sauce on low.Remove from oven and garnish with a side of marinara sauce, fresh basil and oregano leaves, and cherry tomatoes. Serve immediately.

For my signature dish, I wanted to bring a bit of “aloha” to Orange Beach. I knew the flavor profile I wanted to use but didn’t know which part of the chicken to showcase. I tested the flavor with chicken breasts and chicken thighs. I started to think about how we love to eat in Hawaii. The first thing that came to mind was the “plate lunch”. Plate lunch features a protein served with sticky rice and mac salad. Huli Huli Chicken is a very popular way of cooking chicken in Hawaii. “Huli” means “turn”. Huli Huli Chicken is Hawaii’s version of BBQ meets rotisserie. Since I didn’t have hours to cook the chicken, I went with skewered chicken thighs served with sticky rice and our family’s recipe for mac salad. Even though the judges are judging my entry on the chicken, I had to give judges the experience of a plate lunch. My Huli Huli Chicken Skewer Plate Lunch scored 91.5 out of 100. My total score for the round was 94.5, placing me in 7th place. Placement in the Top 10 means that I am moving to the Top 10 round. Stay tuned for this recipe in the Top 10 blog post!
I want to send HUGE MAHALO to my dad who travelled all the way from Hilo, HI and my friend, Lynn Beamer, who travelled from South Carolina to be my sous chefs. I couldn’t have done this without them! We made a great team and my dad has a new nickname, “Chicken Master”. My produce sponsor, Melissa’s Produce, provided me with beautiful herbs used in the Chicken Parmington and produce and garnish for the Huli Huli Chicken Skewer Plate Lunch. Big hugs to my cheerleaders, Susanne Duplantis of Makeover My Leftovers (competed in the World Burger Championship) and Lisa Keys of Good Grief Cook (soused for Rebecka Evans of At Home with Rebecka, 2017 Bacon World Champion).
What an exciting day! After being under pressure for 2 hours, it was time to unwind, wash dishes/aprons, and get some lunch!
For more information:World Food Championships
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