Dessert lovers, rejoice! An event entirely devoted to all things sweet comes to Tampa next month. Prepare yourself (and your stomach) for the ultimate cheat day. Dessert Wars is set for February 9 from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Armature Works.
“It’s the most indulgent day. I have a sweet tooth so there isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t eat some kind of dessert. It’s a way of life for me,” says founder Bradley Matthews.
He created Dessert Wars because he wanted to his sugar-loving peers and share the intricate world of sweets with the masses. Matthews held his first Dessert Wars competition in 2016 in Miami with 32 vendors. He says it was so new at the time people didn’t quite understand the concept.
“I looked around and there wasn’t anything else like it. I recruited, told people my vision, and I knew it would benefit them the most. They’re being put in front of their direct audience: dessert lovers,” Matthews tells CL.
Dessert Wars is a family-friendly competition between 50 local vendors including Astro Ice Cream, Cookie Munchers, and Jupiter Donuts. Participants compete in front of a group of 8 judges, where they’re judged on a variety of categories. According to Matthews, in order to be as accurate as possible, the judges have to eat all 50 entries. No cash prize but two winners are chosen as People’s Choice Champion and Judge’s Champion.
He says the planning process begins nine months out when the date is booked. The vendor recruitment process begins six months in advance. In order to find participants, he looks for help from food influencers, Yelp, and Google to find participants.
“We try to get a variety of things: ice cream, cookies, pies, cupcakes. Vendors come up with the craziest concoctions that even surprise us,” he says.
Although VIP tickets are sold out, limited general admission tickets are still available for $35 per person, through dessert-wars.com. VIP ticket holders can start sampling all the desserts at 3 p.m., everyone else can arrive at 4 p.m. Attendees receive a go-box to take home a few of their favorite treats.
“What’s unique is this is the only dessert festival in the world where you pay once to get in and everything else is ready for sampling. There’s no other costs once you get inside,” he adds.
Matthews says vendors are starting to realize Dessert Wars isn’t just about sampling, it’s about creating a dessert we all want to share on Instagram. He encourages them to be social media ready and step out of their comfort zones.
“Some places will bring a cake that spells out ‘Dessert Wars’ and that picture is shared so many times. They’ll make something over the top that everyone can capture and post,” he says.
Matthews says Dessert Wars is about exposing the top dessert brands and putting them on the map. The food lovers find new foods to cure their sweet tooth cravings and share it with friends.
“It lets them try places they haven’t had the opportunity to try. I want the food lovers to discover the next big dessert.”
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