CRESTVIEW — Local cook Sherri Williams is preparing for her return to the World Food Championships Nov. 7-11 in Orange Beach, Alabama.
She is cooking in the sandwich category this year, but hopes to eventually defend her 2017 WFC Granny Grilling win.
"I don't know if they're going to have that this year, but I hope they do, because I want to defend my title," she said, laughing. She especially enjoyed that their Grilling Granny judges were 20 middle- to high school-age children.
Some attendees may have recognized Williams from her appearances on Food Network competitions such as "Guy's Big Project" and "All-Star Academy."
Area residents got a taste of her competitive chops when the Army veteran cooked and shared simple recipes with the public Sept. 29 and 30 at the Niceville Walmart. The recipes Williams created and those by other WFC winners are posted available online as part of the Food Champ Recipe Club, https://worldfoodchampionships.com/fcrc-recipes.
Of the weekend cooking sessions, Williams said, "It went really well. I love it! I loved talking to them about food," she said. "It was a lot of fun."
On Saturday morning she made sweet and spicy pulled pork sliders with mild peppers and ranch dressing, and a pecan pumpkin mousse parfait that afternoon.
Sunday recipes included Asian-inspired pork fried rice and piña colada slaw with pecans.
She also showed her audience how to make substitutions for recipe requirements that may not be in stock at the grocery store. For instance, sausage crumbles were an ingredient in the fried rice recipe. She showed attendees how they could buy sausage patties, chop them up and use them instead.
"We used all of Walmart's Great Value products and their Marketside Value, and all the recipes you can make in less than 30 minutes," Williams said, "and the meats are all fully cooked already."
The parfaits called for four ingredients, including pumpkin in the can, whipped cream, crushed shortbread cookies and nuts.
Sherri also spoke about her love of cooking competitions and the challenges that go with it. She said you have to be able to think really fast, make food that tastes good, cook it, plate it and put it in front of the judges.
"You've gotta be a real fast thinker. You've got to think on your feet and just do it," she said.
She said in one grilling competition, they had these huge red snappers that had to be scaled, cleaned and prepped before they could cook them in the limited time they had available. And the weather was not cooperating with the grilling they had to do.
"You have to have a back up plan," and adapt to the conditions you're working in, she said. With the rainy weather not helping, she wound up flaking the fish she prepared instead of serving the fillet portion she'd planned on.
This article was updated to correct the information about the World Food Championships dates, and Sherri Williams' military status.