If you’re a home cook, enjoy good food, or enjoy cooking competition shows like Master Chef and Top Chef, you owe it to yourself to check out Competition Dining in North Carolina. Competition Dining is sponsored by the NC Department of Agriculture, and features competitions in five regions throughout the state: Raleigh, Charlotte, Asheville, Wilmington, and Greensboro.
Each evening, two chefs from local restaurants battle it out over a blind, six-course dinner. At noon on competition day, the chef teams receive a secret ingredient that needs to be incorporated in their dishes in a creative way. The teams have from noon until serving time at 7:00 PM to create and prepare their menus. Like the pantry on televised cooking shows, chefs may choose from any of the local ingredients in the Savor NC food van. Courses are served and voted blind, so you have no idea whose food you’re tasting, and wining chefs are awarded cash prizes, a red chef jacket, and bragging rights.
The Fire in the Triangle events (Raleigh) are hosted at 1705 Prime, the catering and special events venue owned by Rocky Top Hospitality (Twisted Fork, Michael Dean’s, Tribeca Tavern, the former Bogart’s, the former Rockwell’s, etc.); and being the fourth year of competition, have gotten quite polished. Professional A/V, live Twitter feeds, convenient ballot registration and voting via mobile apps, and an entertaining emcee keep things moving forward.
We were treated to courses served by Chef Christopher Hill from The Oxford and Chef Younes Sabouh from City Kitchen; all featuring the secret ingredients Thompson Orchards peaches and High Rock Farms blackberries. Eric Wagner of the just-opened Brueprint Brewing Company in Apex and the NC Beer Guys Glenn and Dave were in attendance to introduce the evening’s beer selection.
- Course 1 (Chef Sabouh): Goat cheese espuma, spiced peach jam, pistachio crumble, pomegranate-molasses, pickled blackberries, corn relish
- Course 2 (Chef Sabouh): fried quail breast, blackberry cornbread, walnuts, peach barbecue sauce, crispy bacon
- Course 3 (Chef Hill): ginger-braised pork butt, corn custard, cilantro, peach chimichurri, balsamic blackberry vinaigrette, corn confetti
- Course 4 (Chef Hill): cherry wood smoked venison, peach glazed mangalitsa shoulder, confit potatoes, carrot puree, blackberry roasted peaches
- Course 5 (Chef Sabouh): peach coconut mousse, crème fraiche cake, roasted peaches, blackberry compote, almond crumble
- Course 6 (Chef Hill): peach cheesecake, orange basil chocolate ravioli, blackberry white chocolate fondue, candied pecans