Fire in the Triad Week II: Pepsi, steak and Zeppelin

The theme for the second week of Fire in the Triad was Hot, Hotter and Hottest as six of the areas chefs battled it out in the Empire Room in Downtown Greensboro. Conceptualizing, expediting and plating up more than 300 dishes in three hour’s time takes a mighty band of brothers to pull it all together. Playing the parts of backup vocalist and drummer and disguised as chef du cuisine, sous or pastry chef, those folks keep a steady beat and work alongside the restaurant chef.

Monday night: Fire in the Triad veteran Chef Kristina Fuller of downtown Greensboro’s, Crafted — the Art of the Taco, was up against the spicy Chef Juan Guzman of J. Pepper’s in Kernersville. Both chefs, very hot in very different ways, heated up the kitchen with the featured ingredient, Pepsi. Entering the dining room to “Some Nights” by fun., Fuller rallied the crowd into a standing ovation. Guzman, playing up his Mexican roots, came out to Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song.” In a flurry of Pepsi reductions and competing strawberry-Pepsi combinations, a mere one-tenth of a point separated the two. The highest scoring dish of the night: duck-fat bacon confit, pickled root-vegetable salad, Pepsi BBQ Glaze and honey dijon mustard from Chef Fuller wasn’t enough to pull out a W against Chef Guzman and his Pepsi-roasted duck breast, farro risotto, beurre rouge and pistachioarugula pesto.

Tuesday night: Fire in the Triad veteran Mark Grohman of Meridian and newcomer Mack Parker of Diamondback Grill, both of Winston-Salem, did the two-step and battled it out over certified angus beef. Each chef “steaked” their claim with internationally-inspired comfort food tied up with well-executed sauces. All night long, diners were trying to guess each chef’s cuisine style and figure out who’s on first and what’s on second. The highest scoring dish of the night: sirloin ragout, grilled oyster mushrooms, sweet-potato pierogi and roasted cippolini onions with crispy sage was the second-highest scoring dish of the competition so far with about 25 out of 30 points. In battles past, any chef that did not create a dessert with the featured ingredient did not win. In an unexpected twist, only one chef, Parker, created a dessert and the chocolate bread pudding studded with bits of steak did not win the dining public over. The battle was lost before the dessert course was presented and Chef Grohman prevailed.

Wednesday night: Two Fire in the Triad veterans, Chef Timothy Bocholis of Bistro B in Kernersville and Chef Chris Russell of B. Christopher’s in Burlington, were singing “Strawberry Fields Forever” for the featured ingredient from Sunset Farms in Snow Camp. Hungry for a win, fans audibly cheered and booed when each course and its creator was announced.

Chef Russell created the highest and lowest scoring dishes of the night, but wowed fans and foes alike with a panseared lump crabcake with strawberry pico de gallo. Arriving to the sounds of AC/DC, Chef Russell commented that if he weren’t a chef, he wanted to be a rock and roll star. Another supernova of the culinary kind, Bocholis chose “Don’t Stop the Party” by rapper Pitbull as his theme song. In a polarizing string of events, Bocholis was able to edge out Russell with a sexual chocolate trio of strawberry gelato, cream and coulis.

For detailed descriptions and the playby-play, visit Nik Snacks blog at niksnacks. or Nik Snacks on Facebook. The last week of preliminary battles from Marisol, Liberty Oak of Greensboro , River Birch Lodge and WS Prime of Winston- Salem take place this week. To purchase tickets and get a seat near these culinary rock stars, visit