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Chefs get ready to turn up the heat

We are just two weeks away from the preeminent chef competition in the state and one Triad chef is sharpening his knife to defend his title. The Got to Be NC Competition Dining Series is a single elimination tournament highlighting some of the best chefs in North Carolina. But what sets it apart from other culinary battles is that it also highlights some of the state’s food and agricultural talent as well.

Last year, Chef Richard Miller of Graze Restaurant took home the local title and has enjoyed relishing in some of that glory the past 11 months. This year, the competition is changing things up a bit with two competitions locally: in Winston-Salem on May 22, 23 and 25 and next month in Greensboro. The series is also switching formats to allow chefs to create All-Star “Dream Teams,” which allows chefs from different restaurants to partner together to create their three-person team.

Team Miller Time features Chef Richard Miller, Chef Kevin Wilkes, Twin City Quarter executive chef, and Tim Gallione, executive chef at O’Callahan’s Publick House in Mocksville. It’s the exact same team he worked with last year, except Gallione has moved on to another restaurant. “We decided, if it’s not broke, don’t fix it,” Miller said. “We had already said we’d come back and do it again. We’ve been practicing some. However with Competition Dining, even if you go in with a plan, it could all go out the window, because you never know what’s going to happen with a secret ingredient.”

I’ve been to several Competition Dining battles. I’ve been there in a professional capacity as part of the event itself. I’ve also been there in a different professional way, covering the event for my blog and then again for Chow readers. No matter what’s brought me there, the competition is a blast. The excitement in the air is hard to describe. You may get pretty darn lucky and get battle chocolate. You may purse up when you hear it’ll be battle cucumber or battle beets. In the end, it’s all about fellowshipping over great food featuring North Carolina producers and farms. Here’s how it works. Each dinner includes two teams battling it out. They each prepare three courses of a North Carolina ingredient that is revealed an hour before they start cooking that day. Diners get in on the action. They learn of the featured ingredient just before the dinner commences and then get to enjoy a full-service, six-course meal, all the while not knowing which chef prepared which plate. Then the guest gets to vote, which determines who moves to the next round. These dream teams of 2016 up the caliber of the competition.

Chef Miller says he is looking forward to this new format. “It’s a good idea because it takes some of the strain off a chef…some chefs were having to close their restaurant for the night or take too much of his kitchen staff on nights of the competition.”

Miller’s battle will take place Sunday, May 22 against Team Phoenix Brevard from Brevard with Miles Hogsed, The Phoenix executive chef and Shawn Winbush and Jadedyn Whittemore, The Phoenix chefs.

On May 23, another local team will bring the heat. Team Los Tres Jefes, featuring Chef Tim Bocholis, owner and Chef of Bistro B Signature Dining and Wine Bar in Kernersville, Chef Dion Sprenkle of Chef Dion Sprenkle in Lexington and Chef Mitchell Nicks, founding partner of Cane Ventures Rum Company. Nicks was also the owner of the former Muse in Greensboro and chef at Sedgefield Country Club.

Bocholis says he agrees the dream team concept creates less stress for restaurants. “I have good chefs that work for me. But we had to pull them out of the kitchen to compete in the past. To be able to add different chefs from other restaurants, just creates more possibilities. I’m very excited about the team we’ve pulled together.”

Bocholis’ team will face a popular restaurant from the High Country. Team Vidalia Boom from Boone will feature Sam Ratchford, owner and chef of Vidalia Restaurant and his business partner, Julius Kalman and Vidalia chef, Jason Walsh.

Competition Dining Series founder and host Jimmy Crippen says the dream teams will further showcase the incredible culinary talent and agriculture in North Carolina. “We celebrate with foodies across the state with this dynamic culinary experience. We look forward to sharing unique chef collaborations with our diners to make for an unprecedented year of very competitive events and innovative dishes like never before.”

The winner of the May 22 battle and the May 23 battle will face off in the Winston- Salem finale on May 25.

The Greensboro battles take place on June 20, 21 and 23 at the Empire Room. Teams will be announced soon.

If you’re paying attention, you’ll notice that last year the entire Triad event was a five-week long stretch of battles. This year, it’s three days of battles in Winston-Salem and three days in Greensboro. If you were thinking of procrastinating, or getting in there for a semifinal…this year will not allow for that. So in other words, act fast and get your tickets soon. Every battle this year, will be like a semifinal.

There will be a winner from Durham, Raleigh, Charlotte and Wilmington. The six winning teams each receive a grand prize of $2,000 in cash and prizes and each member receives a handcrafted knife by Ironman Forge along with the coveted “Red Chef Jacket.” The winners of the Winston-Salem and Greensboro battles will move on to the Battle of Champions, which will take place in Raleigh at the end of the year. !

KRISTI MAIER is a food writer, blogger and cheerleader for all things local who even enjoys cooking in her kitchen, though her kidlets seldom appreciate her efforts.

WANNA go?

Tickets are going fast and are available at www. competitiondining.com. Tickets are $59 for the first 2 battles and $69 for the final.

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