With cheese in one corner of the ring and macaroni in the other, the O-Town MacDown cooking competition will prove to be a Gouda fight.
The O-Town MacDown, presented by SeaWorld, is a cooking competition on Aug. 23 that will benefit Give Kids The World Village, a non-profit resort in Central Florida that provides cost-free vacations to children with life-threatening illnesses and their families.
"The importance of the event is benefiting an amazing organization," said Lisa Bertin-Queena, the director of special events for Give Kids The World. "We fulfill the wishes of children with life-threatening illnesses and this can help us make wishes come true."
The O-Town MacDown will feature professional chefs and restaurants, as well as home cooks and non-profit organizations, who will all be fighting for the right to be Orlando's mac 'n cheese champion.
While the chefs whip up their best batch of the cheesy side dish, attendees can eat dish after dish of unlimited mac-n-cheese at a cost of $10 for adults and $5 for children. Mac n'cheese can be sampled from the more than 40 competitors, and if that isn't enough to fill an attendee up, there will be an all-you-can-eat mac 'n cheese bar from Smokey Bones and one from Boston Market. Tickets are now available at www.OTownMacDown.org. The competition will be held at the Orange County Convention Center from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. The closing ceremony will be at 3:30 p.m.
Besides the cooking competition, there will be other events. There will be cooking demonstrations by celebrity cooks Chef Emily Ellyn, Chef Jillian Hopke, Chef Maira Isabel and Chef Jody McLeod. Live entertainment will be presented by the SeaWorld Groove Chefs, magician and comedian Tony Brent and acoustic guitarist Islay Rodriguez. There will also be vendor booths with arts, crafts, jewelry and other items for sale. In the Kids Zone there will be character meet-and-greets with characters like Shamu. Other activities for children include bounce houses and balloon animals, said Bertin-Queena.
The judges for the competition will be Emily Ellyn, Food Network star; Heather McPherson, Orlando Sentinel food editor and restaurant critic; Joe Kelley, WDBO news director and host; and Chef Hector Colon, SeaWorld executive chef. Prizes will be awarded in various categories at the competition.
The winners of the professional and restaurant competitions will have the opportunity to face off onstage at the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Show, which will be held two weeks later. Both winners will compete at the show's Food Trends Experience Culinary Demonstration Theater for the title of Best Mac n' Cheese in Orange County. They will also be featured on the show's website and be promoted at the show. The winner of the home-cook category will receive a trip for two to Washington, D.C. The trip will include airfare, hotel and a food tour from D.C. Metro Food Tours.