Friday, February 3, 2012

An N.C. kind of "Iron Chef"

Ever watched "Iron Chef" or "Top Chef" and pined to be among the judges who get to actually taste all that stuff?

Two long-running opportunities exist:

* Blowing Rock restaurateur Jimmy Crippen is hosting a series of four events, involving 64 chefs in all and occurring in several N.C. venues, though not, sadly, Charlotte. (Next year, he vows.)

Here's how it works: A total of 64 N.C. chefs compete in four regions, in head-to-head, single-elimination matches. Each pair creates a six-course meal (at a neutral restaurant) featuring a locally grown ingredient revealed to them less than an hour before the competition (a la "Iron Chef"). Diners, culinary experts and celebrity judges determine which chef advances to the next round.

The whole thing is dubbed the "Got to Be NC Competition Dining Series," sponsored by the N.C. Dept. of Agriculture. Each of the four regional competitions are also named: "Fire in the Rock" for Blowing Rock (which actually began in 2005 but is now part of this), "Fire on the Dock" in Wilmington, "Fire in the Triangle" in Raleigh and "Fire in the Triad" in Greensboro and Winston-Salem.

Said Crippen, "I was thinking of Charlotte right off the bat," but he couldn't come up with a good name. " 'Fire in the Queen?' That doesn't sound good," he said, laughing. The events -- he's serving as host at all four locations -- are "the most fun I've had in the business in 25 years."

The event kicked off Jan. 31 at Crippen's Country Inn & Restaurant in Blowing Rock. Chef Jessica Grogan of Crave in Boone topped Michael Barbato of Timberlake's at Chetola Resort.

Winners from each region receive $2,000 and a custom red chef's jacket. The four regional winners will face off in a grand finale in October. Tickets ($49 per person in the first rounds), brackets and more info are at

* And for just the western part of the state: The 2012 WNC Chefs Challenge, a third annual competition to name a "Best Chef in Western North Carolina,” will begin March 20 at Century Room on the Park, above Pack's Tavern in Asheville.

The 14 competitors in the weekly battles (through May) will include returning 2011 champion Nate Allen of Knife & Fork in Spruce Pine. The finale will be the start of the sponsoring WNC Magazine Asheville Wine & Food Festival, on Aug. 23.

Diners will get to taste dishes and take part in the judging, as will a panel of chefs, journalists and culinary folk.

Info and tickets ($49): 828-225-6944;


Anonymous said...

"Fire in the QC"

Hello its not rocket science

Just more Charlotte Envy from those outside the area

Anonymous said...

So he doesn't have a competition in the State's best food city and by far largest city because he can't come up with a "cute" name? Sounds pretty petty to me.