When the World Food Championships—sometimes called the Olympics of the culinary world—took place in Orange Beach, Alabama, Nov. 10-13, the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, was behind the scenes and on the sidelines.
Journalism and Electronic Media Professors Rob Heller and Nick Geidner took their students to Alabama to photograph and video record the World Food Championships, which included a military chef challenge and cooking competitions focused on bacon, steak, seafood, recipes, sandwiches, burgers, barbecue, chili and desserts.
"Mike McCloud (BS/JEM ’90) is a former student of mine," Heller said. "I've kept in touch with him over the years as he progressed in his career from being a publisher to running his own marketing and creative agency to his present work as CEO of the World Food Championships. Mike came to speak at a college event last spring, and I talked with him about my interest in bringing photo students to document his event this year. He was enthusiastic about the idea, and we were able to make this happen, thanks in large part to Mike’s willingness to foot the bill for the group’s trip to Orange Beach."
"Our students got a real-life experience in visually covering a unique and large event," Heller said. "Mike gave us complete access and free rein to document whatever interested us. He wanted to see the event through the eyes of our students and faculty, and we hope we can continue to do this on a yearly basis."
Geidner said the journalism project, which is called “Inside the Food Fight,” was a great opportunity for students to practice their skills outside the classroom.
"Covering the World Food Championships was a lot of fun for our students, but it also challenged them to produce high-quality journalism on a deadline in a real-world situation. I can't think of a better way to train young journalists," he said.
Brianna Bivens, a senior in JEM, is one of the students who went on the trip.
"I am incredibly lucky to have professors that always try to provide students like me with these kinds of opportunities," she said. "Getting to document the World Food Championships was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for which I am very grateful."
For more information, see the project website, or follow the project on Twitter (@UTfoodfight) or Instagram (InsideTheFoodFight).
Mike McCloud, the president and CEO of World Food Championships, is a 1990 graduate of UT's College of Communication and Information and the recipient of a UT Accomplished Alumni Award. He is an award-winning marketing entrepreneur whose accomplishments include running a full-service ad agency, publishing a regional business journal, creating and funding new ventures like the World Food Championships, and serving as active food marketing strategist for Coca-Cola, Sam's Club, Bull Outdoor Products, Tyson, Smithfield and Kraft Foods.