BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) – SAW’s BBQ has made a name for itself in the Southeast and beyond the last few years. Now, thanks to one of its chefs, it’s earned worldwide recognition.

Matthew Statham, general manager of SAW’s Soul Kitchen in Avondale, earned the title of World Chef Champion last month at the World Food Championships in Dallas. He and his three-person team won $10,000 for the victory. They had to outperform 40 other competitors, including some pretty big names.

“And then when you step against guys that you’re like, ‘Oh, I know who that is, that guy’s on TV, that guy’s here,’ and then you come out on top, it really is still surreal.” he said. “But it’s like validation that what you’re doing, you’re doing a good job.”

The competition presented some unique challenges, especially with food preparation. Nothing could be prepared in advance, so they had to buy many ingredients once they arrived in Dallas. That required advance research and lots of shopping once they arrived. But the cooking business is not an easy one anyway. And that makes the effort all the more rewarding.

“It’s still overwhelming. It’s like, hey, you made a good decision. Lots of days you wake up, and you’re like, ‘I don’t know about this,'” Statham said, laughing. “But it’s always good to have those days where it’s like you did this right and you’re doing something that you were meant to do.”

He says it’s also nice knowing that he brought more recognition to SAW’s. But it doesn’t change who they are.

“We’ve gotten some notoriety to it, but at the heart, we’re still a mom-and-pop,” he said. “We’re still the same handful of people that run all of these (restaurants), like we’re still small enough that you know every employee. And so it’s still really good to get how much ever national attention we can get.”

Statham and his team now have an opportunity at an even bigger honor. The ten category winners from the World Food Championships last month advance to the event’s Final Table, which takes place this May in Indianapolis. The winner claims $100,000.