Last weekend, Josh Cooper, a Tallahassee-based political consultant and barbecue pitmaster, was crowned World Seafood Champion at the 2019 World Food Championships in Dallas. Following his win, Cooper will advance to the Final Table, hosted in Indianapolis in May 2020, to compete against nine other champions.
From October 16th through October 20th, over 1400 cooks competed in this year’s World Food Championships (WFC). According to WFC, winners were chosen from ten categories: barbecue, bacon, burger, chef, chili, dessert, recipe, sandwich, seafood, and steak.
Mike McCloud, WFC president and CEO, said the event was “an epic culinary showdown” with the closest scores in its history.
“The amount of collective talent was the best we have ever seen,” McCloud said.
Cooper’s seafood dish, Pan-Seared Scallops with Caviar Champagne Beurre Blanc, won him $10,000 in the seafood category. At the Final Table, he will compete for a $100,000 bonus prize.
Unlike many competitors, Cooper is not a full-time chef. As a political consultant based in Tallahassee, he specializes in providing opposition research for campaigns and corporations. Throughout his career, he has consulted for the campaigns of Rick Scott, Ron DeSantis, and other politicians.
Cooper’s culinary career began with home cooking on the side of his consulting job. After a series of cooking competitions, Cooper launched Next Level BBQ, where he has been pitmaster since.
As stated on the Next Level BBQ website, “Cooper competed on season 8 of Fox’s MasterChef, where he was narrowly defeated by the eventual Season 8 champion, Dino Luciano, and has made appearances on the Food Network and Travel Channel. He is the culinary contributor for Influence Magazine and has appeared as a celebrity judge for a local Chopped Jr competition in Tallahassee.”
Additionally, Cooper won four first-place prizes at the 2018 World BBQ Cooking Contest, and he plans to compete at the 2020 Florida BBQ Association and Kansas City BBQ Society competitions.
At the May 2020 World Food Championships Final Table, Cooper will use his unique cooking methods to create a dish for an “ultimate taste test.” He and the other competitors will cook in timed challenges, competing for the Final Table’s $100,000 prize.