Marianna chef competes for $100,000 in Ultimate Culinary Cajun Challenge
According to Chef Nick Rickman, a recipe for success has three main ingredients: passion, persistence and focus. At the 7th annual World Food Championships (WFC), Nick managed to beat out a field of talented chefs to become the 2018 World Chef Champion. His performance reserved his spot to compete at WFC’s Final Table Challenge for a shot at the $100,000 grand prize and World Food Champion title.
Nick will face-off with the other nine champion cooks in a private event May 18-19 in Louisiana at the New Orleans Culinary and Hospitality Institute, known locally as NOCHI. The entire process will be filmed for a one-hour television program that will air this August on CNBC.
The Florida chef is no stranger to Food Sport. In fact, he and his wife have competed in WFC for several years and have come close to claiming a category win. Before this year’s big success, Nick’s claim to food fame was his third-place finish in the 2016 World Steak Championship.
“We’ve been very close to winning it all many times and I’m very grateful,” said Nick. “It just goes to show persistence and passion pays off.”
Since Nick grew up with two working parents, he would often be responsible for meals. This led the aspiring chef to experiment and create innovative cuisines. Nick attributes his work ethic, zest in the culinary field and passion to his biggest influencer –– his grandfather.
“My grandfather came to the United States via Ellis Island where he started working as a dishwasher at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City,” said Nick. “Even though he had a previous culinary background, he still worked his way up and later relocated to Atlanta and opened up one of the first family steakhouses.”
Following in his grandfather's footsteps, Nick also started out as a dishwasher eventually working his way up to prep cook then to head cook and so on.
Seven years ago, he began his full-time culinary career by opening a small catering business and food truck. Now, Nick serves as the Executive Chef and owner of The Salt Block Restaurant in Marianna, Florida.
While Nick is excited about the Final TableChallenge, he says he is content with his success thus far.
“The World Food Championships gives a platform for the best cooks to emerge without any bias,” said the 2018 World Chef Champion. “WFC means everything because it’s my chance to go against the best. It means the world to just be the champion in my own category. However, I definitely want more. My motto is to stay humble, stay hungry and stay focused.”
When asked what he would do with the $100,000 (if he won), Nick said the money would go towards rebuilding his home that was damaged by storms in his area. Many of Nick’s fellow Food Sport competitors thought this tragic event would prevent him from attending WFC this year. However, nothing was going to stop this passionate chef from going for the gold.
“Once everyone heard the news, a lot of people assumed I wasn’t going to compete this year since I wouldn’t have much time to prepare,” explained Nick. “I quickly corrected them, and let them know I wouldn’t miss this (WFC) for the world.”
Perseveration and dedication certainly paid off for this Final Table finalist. Now, as Nick prepares to compete for the biggest prize purse in Food Sport, he is hoping his experience and talent will pay off once again.
“To win it all truly would be the icing on top of the cake,” said Nick.
WFC’s Final Table event will feature three rounds of competition, narrowing down the field from ten competitors until only one cook remains and is crowned the 7th Annual World Food Champion. The first round of competition will be a Cajun Eggs Benedict challenge featuring NestFresh Eggs. Cooks will whip up their best NOLA-inspired version of this classic dish.
Only five competitors will advance to round two, which will require them to recreate a menu favorite from the popular New Orleans’ restaurant, Tableau. The top three cooks who emerge from the first two rounds will then create an appetizer for the great, family-owned Antoine’s restaurant during a final culinary challenge. The winner of this round will not only walk away with $100,000 grand prize, but his or her winning dish will be added to Antoine’s menu.
To help determine who will walk away with the prestigious title and grand prize, WFC has enlisted the help of culinary experts to judge each round of the competition. The panel includes
• Renowned Restaurateur Dickie Brennan and his executive chef, John Martin.
• Antoine's Restaurant Executive Chef Rich Lee and CEO Rick Blount
• Chef Ryan Rondeno
• MasterChef Star Katie Dixon
• Chef JD Eubanks
• WFC Ambassador Suzanne Clark
To learn more about WFC, visit www.worldfoodchampionships.com. Stay up-to-date with all things Food Sport by following the event on Twitter (@WorldFoodChamp), Facebook or Instagram (@WorldFoodChampionships).