by Kristi Maier | @triadfoodies

The local food world’s heavy hitters, who also enjoy a little friendly competition, will be battling it out in the coming weeks as the Got To Be NC Competition Dining Series approaches. Formerly known as “Fire in the Triad,” the Iron Chef-style competition was born in Blowing Rock. It now spans multiple cities including Raleigh and Charlotte, and this year will make its first stop in Winston-Salem. Later on, it will cross the border for the first time in Greenville, South Carolina. At each event, two chef teams battle it out, preparing three courses each using a featured North Carolina ingredient. The diners get a full service “blind” six-course dinner and make the votes that determine the winners.

At the media event last week, each chef and restaurant were announced, along with the battles that will take place the first two weeks of the competition. Winners of those rounds head to the quarterfinals, then semi-finals and ultimately a final duel on July 7.

Series competitors are randomly assigned to brackets. Because of the nature of each series, any chef from across the state can apply for any tournament. And for the first time ever in our local competition, a food truck chef will compete. Here’s a look at the battle match-ups:

“¢ May 26: John Bobby of Noble’s Grille in Winston-Salem, versus Andrew Nicholas Davila of Belle at the Jones House in Cary

“¢ May 27: Matthew Montandon of The Phoenix in Brevard, versus Dion Sprenkle of Chef Dion Sprenkle in Lexington

“¢ June 1: Michael Harkenreader of Undercurrent Restaurant in Greensboro, versus Kevin Riddick of The Screaming Radish Food Truck in Winston-Salem

“¢ June 2: Christian Froelich of Hearth Restaurant at Sanders Ridge in Boonville, versus Anders Benton of Gia in Greensboro

“¢ June 3: Mark Grohman of Meridian Restaurant in Winston-Salem, versus Dave Nicoletta of Giannos in High Point

“¢ June 8: Travis Myers of River Birch Lodge in Winston- Salem, versus Alex Pierce of Greensboro Country Club in Greensboro

Ң June 9: Richard Miller of Graze in Winston-Salem, versus Michael Roberson of The Iron Hen Caf̩ in Greensboro

“¢ June 10: Trey Prescott of J. Pepper’s Southern Grille in Kernersville, versus Tim Barbrey of Perky’s Bistro in Jamestown

The winner of the Winston-Salem series will then go on to the Battle of Champions in Raleigh on Halloween weekend.

2014 Triad champion, Tim Thompson, who won’t be defending his title because he’s busy working on building his own restaurant, Essen, says the competition is a great way for chefs to show their skills to the public. His advice, “Don’t worry about beating the guy next to you in that kitchen. Worry about making the best plate of food possible”¦which is what you should be doing anyway.”

For the past three years, the competition has been held at the Empire Room in Greensboro, but that venue became unavailable due to new owners and renovations. Competition Dining founder, Jimmy Crippen, says the folks from Winston-Salem’s Benton Convention Center reached out and offered the space. “We thought it would be a nice change of pace to move over to Winston-Salem due to the fact that so many of the competing chefs are from the city, ” he says. “Plus, the kitchen is phenomenal and for the chefs, when it comes to choosing venues for these battles, the kitchen is the #1 priority.”

The Competition Dining Series actually started as “Fire in the Rock” as a way to just have a fun cooking competition, but it has since transcended that notion and is now more about introducing diners to local farmers and North Carolina products as well as propelling chefs’ restaurants’ business. Some have gone on to battle in more formidable competitions on Food Network shows like “Chopped” and

“Cutthroat Kitchen.”

Tim Parrish of the North Carolina Department of Agriculture’s Got To Be NC program says the real winners in the end are NC farmers. “We are so fortunate to live in a state that has so much to offer a chef. We connect farms like Joyce Farms and these chefs to the bounty of what is available in North Carolina,” he says. “The farmers are introduced to the diners, the chefs create dishes using NC products and the diners then go home and we hope, they are inspired to do the same. More and more chefs are being asked to offer local products, and yes it’s trendy, but it’s also the right thing to do.”

Stay tuned, we’ll be following the results as we go along and YES! Weekly and triadfoodies will be making a special appearance as a media guest judge during the course of the competition. !


The Got To Be NC Competition Dining Series takes place May 26-July 7. Tickets range from $55-75 excluding beverage, tax and service fee are available online at Battles will take place at the Benton Convention Center at 301 W. 5th Street in Winston-Salem.