Self proclaimed foodie Mike Castaneda is going to represent Kansas and Wellington this week in the Food World Championship in Dallas Texas.
Castaneda is one of three Kansans who qualified for the competition. One of those competitors is his brother-in-law Steve Madrigal, who runs Pop’s Catering in Wichita.
The food category they will have to cook in is seafood - not Castaneda’s primary style of cooking, but he feels confident about it.
If he wins first place in the seafood category, Castaneda will win $10,000 and advance to the “final table” in which he will prepare his own dish. The top prize is $100,000.
He just might have a good shot at winning. The first year, Castaneda qualified for the Food World Championship, he took sixth place, then took second place the past two years.
Castaneda made a name for himself writing about food online and cooking for football teams and others. Probably the biggest celebrity he has cooked for is Grammy Award winning contemporary Christian singer Lauren Daigle.
In 2015, the Food Network named Castaneda one of the Top 10 cooks in America.
He is virtually self-taught, having never attended culinary school or worked in a restaurant. (Although he did say he would like to run his own restaurant.) As a boy, Castaneda did watch his family prepare meals and he picked up cooking techniques.
“Cooking was pretty important to my family on both sides,” he said.
His maternal grandmother primarily cooked “comfort food,” while his paternal grandmother, who was Hispanic, cooked Mexican food. His father mainly cooked outside on the grill. Castaneda’s cooking specialties are Mexican food and barbeque, but he likes to learn many styles and enjoys pretty much everything about food.
“I love bursting out with different cultures and things like that,” he said. “I love to eat. I love the science behind it.”
He also loves picking up cooking ideas from fellow contest competitors. “If you’re not learning from others, you’re not really learning,” he said.
While cooking sometimes sends him off traveling, Castaneda has a young family and doesn’t want to be away from home too much. He prefers to live in his hometown of Wellington where everybody knows one another, he said. His wife sometimes does the cooking so he won’t burn out.
But, typically, Castaneda said, when he comes home in the evening from his job at the Sumner County Appraiser’s office, he wants to cook.