The World Food Championships (WFC) is the world’s largest food sport competition, with a massive playing field and a sizable cash prize to match. This year, three Springfield-area chefs will compete for the glory: private chef Anna Davis, Lost Signal Brewing Co. chef Kymberlee Matney-Schmitz and Chaz Koeppen, who owns Cafe B-29 in Ozark, Missouri.
The event kicks off today, Oct. 16, and runs through Sun., Oct. 20. Matney competes in the Chef category, Koeppen competes in Burgers and Davis competes in Bacon, with all three battling it out in the tournament-style competition. Their ultimate goal? Making it to the Final Table, the event’s most prestigious final round. The competition is steep: According to a press release, more than 1,500 contestants from around the world will compete in the event ranging from home cooks to chefs to professional teams. The event serves as a vital springboard for many culinary professionals looking for their big break – whether that be the hundreds of thousands of dollars in prize money or through television fame.
Chefs Jack MacMurray of The Boathouse and Mike Johnson of Sugarfire Smoke House and Hi-Pointe Drive In are going head to head.
If Davis, Matney and Koeppen advance in their categories, they could qualify for a slot in the prestigious Final Table event – and its coveted $100,000 prize. Koeppen is less focused on the final prize and more focused on representing Cafe B-29, which she opened with her best friend and daughter in 2017. “To even make it to this competition is incredible,” Koeppen says. “Although I’m not a traditionally-trained chef, I’m proud of the food we put out every day at B-29. For our little spot to get the recognition it deserves would feel amazing.” Davis, on the other hand, is looking to the future. “I have relatives in Norway, and it’s common to have a summer hut out on the fjords,” Davis says. “There’s one area in particular where my relatives live, and I’d love to buy a little bed and breakfast with the prize money.”
This October, she’ll compete in the World Food Championships in Dallas.
In addition to their roots in the Springfield area, the chefs all have one thing in common: They’re women in the traditionally male-dominated culinary field. “I think people are finally starting to respect women in the culinary field a bit more,” Matney says. “And seeing three women from Springfield – three women representing southwest Missouri – is incredible. When I first started out a million years ago, it was difficult for women to get the recognition they deserve in the kitchen. This brings to the forefront that women can do anything. We can be the best of the best.”