Triangle chef Ryan Payne from Weathervane (of Chapel Hill's Southern Season store) battled through to win the Got To Be NC Competition Dining Series final Nov. 17. That's him in white, at center, above. This was a series of competition dining events, held in Blowing Rock, Wilmington, the Triangle and the Triad, in which two chefs would go head to head, and had to use designated N.C. products in creating their meals. The Got To Be NC goal is to promote N.C. products and chefs; this is the first statewide competition it's done. Next year, plans call for the competition to expand to Charlotte, and to add Asheville to its Western NC series.
The Final Four were Michael Foreman of Bistro Roca in Blowing Rock, George Neal of 1618 Seafood Grille in Greensboro, Andy Hopper of Chefs 105 in Morehead City and Payne. He topped Foreman in the finale, in which both had to use pork jowls and Pepsi in three courses for 160 diners in the ballroom of the Renaissance Raleigh North Hills Hotel.
At right is Payne's highest scoring dish: Pork fat funnel cake, buttermilk cake, Pepsi-apple ice cream, candied pork jowl and cherry Pepsi syrup. Both photos: Susan Dosier.
Foreman earned the highest score of the night with his jowl pancetta risotto with Taos-style braised pork cushion, Dos Equis beer-Pepsi jus and pine nut-cumin pistou.
Culinary pro judges were CNN Eatocracy blog managing editor Kit Kinsman; Evan Nash of Johnson & Wales in Charlotte; Scott Craig of Charlotte, one of six Americans to win a gold medal at October's International Culinary Olympics; Dathan Kuzsak, a food blogger and design editor at the Triangle Business Journal; and Daniel Benjamin, pastry chef at Herons in Cary. Their scores were 70 percent of the total, with audience scores 30 percent. Payne won $4,000, Foreman $1,000.
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Tapas to tacos, foie gras to fries, Helen Schwab has written about food in and around Charlotte for more than 20 years. Her related experience includes traveling (pizza in Naples to pizza in New York), waitressing (she understands about tipping from both sides), journalism (a B.S. from Northwestern University), and cooking at home, the less said about which the better.