By Erin Maddrey
August 7, 2016
The “Got To Be NC” Competition Dining Series kicks off this week for a month of culinary battles. The series will not only feature several notable Charlotte chefs, but also fresh homegrown North Carolina ingredients.
A unique dining experience for not only the patrons eating the food, but for the competing chefs, as well.
“You never really know what you’re getting into until it happens,” said Paul Verica, chef and owner of Heritage Food & Drink. “It can be a little stressful, but I love the camaraderie of it all. Cooking with my friends and colleagues, and, of course, the concept of winning is always exciting too.”
During the various nights of competition, teams of three chefs (the teams are dubbed “Dream Teams”) battle it out in a single elimination, blind dinner format.
“I like this year’s ‘Dream Team’ concept” said Ashley Boyd, pastry chef at 300 East and at Heritage Food & Drink. “The last few years I’ve wanted to put together a team from 300 East, which never panned out, but it’s nice to be able to compete as part of a dream team and still represent my family’s business.”
As a guest, patrons are able to sample a six-course menu: three courses from each team and will not know who created the food being tasted. North Carolina ingredients are the true standouts of the experience and are what make the competition so unique. On the morning of each battle, the chefs are informed of the North Carolina ingredients that must be used in each of their courses.
“The mission of Competition Dining is to create emotionally inspiring dining experiences connecting the chef, the farmer and the diner,” said Jimmy Crippen founder and host of the Competition Dining Series. “[The series] is in line with the marketing program, Got To Be NC, which promotes products grown, raised, caught and made in North Carolina.”
Not only do patrons get to enjoy the cuisine, but they also get to decide on the winner of each battle.
“All attendees have a ballot where they vote on each dish blindly based solely on the merits of the food,” Crippen said. “There haven’t necessarily been particular items that have been popular due to the fact that we, the organizers, are always changing things up. What’s been popular is the fact that there are so many North Carolina ingredients that the changes seem endless!”
The Charlotte series will take place in two heats, the first with two preliminary battles on August 8 and 9 and a semi final round on August 11. The second heat preliminary battles will commence on August 22 and 23. The semi final round for that heat will be on August 25. The finale for the Charlotte series is set for August 28, and has already sold-out.
“There are many cooking competitions around the world where you can watch from the bleachers or couch cushion,” Crippen said. “The Got to Be NC Competition Dining Series is the ONLY full service, blind, six-course chef challenge series where everyone there gets to be the judge.”