Sunday, February 26, 2017

New Raleigh cooking competition finds chefs battling for vintage Corvette Stingray

Appetizers included a deconstructive bisque and Mexican-style mushroom Gnocchi.

By Jen Primrose  | February 26, 2017
Twitter: TriangleAT | Facebook: Triangle Around Town | Instagram: trianglearoundtown

It didn’t seem that long ago when Raleigh’s chefs were coming out from the kitchens they call home to compete in what was once the Got to be NC Competition Dining. The dining series was the creation of entrepreneur Jimmy Crippen. Along with Got to be NC and Pate Dawson Foods, the series brought sixteen chefs into the light with nightly battles until a winner was crowned in a bracket-style cooking showcase.
Sadly, the year 2016 saw the flame from the gas-oven grills finally shut off for good. It was a good run, bringing attention to local Triangle chefs such as Dean Thompson of Flights restaurant in North Hills and Ryan Conklin, the chef at Rex UNC Healthcare – who was an underdog and won it all back in 2015. And it was a lot of fun!

With Competition Dining now in the rear view mirror, a brand new dining series has entered the market. Starting its inaugural night on Monday, Feb. 20 at 1705 Prime Catering in Raleigh – Cooking for a Classic has come to see if it can hold its own to a gone, but not forgotten brilliant idea.

Duck breast with sweet potato and beet puree and braised pork with slaw and sweet potato.

In this new series, a concept brought to light for the Lucy Daniels Center, is trying to raise money for the children who go to the Lucy Daniels Center in Cary. Just like Fire in the Triangle, Cooking for a Classic has brought in 16 chefs to battle in the same bracket-style battle as the previous contest. But instead of winning a coveted red chefs jacket, a check for $2,000 and various other culinary prizes, these chefs will be battling for a vintage 1969 Corvette Stingray. A quick search on the internet puts a car like this in the value of $29,000 to $34,000. Not too shabby.

The competition has many similarities, while still trying to remain new. In Competition Dining, chefs were given a secret ingredient they learned about the same day as the competition. Personally, I thought that was a brilliant concept. It kept the chefs on their toes, and showcased how crafty they can be in only a few hours time.

Chocolate cake with sour cherry glaze and peanut butter-chocolate and banana cake for dessert.

With Cooking for a Classic, the chefs get to create whatever they want, but are given a budget. The budget is a great way of keeping the chefs from collecting all the Matsutake mushrooms, Kobe beef and Beluga Caviar they can fit in their baskets. But in this new showcased competition, I was able to find out my entire meal prior to being served my first drink pairing. I've been to a couple of the previous cooking contests, and preferred the anticipation of the secret ingredient and what's coming out next to my table.

The one thing Cooking for a Classic added, which I liked the concept of, is each of the six courses also had a drink pairing. On the opening night, I was treated to various drinks such as hard cider, Mexican beer, Spanish red wine, California Chardonnay, spiked hot chocolate and Irish Coffee. And that’s included in the cost of your ticket. Not like some other events where you have to add an additional cost to have a libation pairing with your meal.

Drinks included a spiked hot chocolate with cherry whipped cream and an Irish coffee paired with desserts.

Night one featured Chef Dean Thompson, of Flights, who was crowned champion of two Fire in the Triangle competitions, squared off against Chef Rich Carter of Catering Works. First thought in my mind was, 'I should be able to easily tell the two apart in this contest.' But that wasn't the case. Each course we sampled at the table had its share of critics, but good and bad. Which, to me, is fun to hear what everyone thinks.

Related Story: Fire in the Triangle: Center Stage with Chef Dean Thompson

From a creative presentation of soup to a succulent duck breast to a downright tasty spiked hot chocolate – it was a fun night out. And in the end, I was quite shocked when the winner was announced as Catering Works Chef Carter. Did the best chef win? I'm not sure. But the best chef of the night did prevail. Chef Carter has moved onto the next round along with Sitti restaurant's Chef Donaldo Guzman (Feb. 21 winner) and Chef Eric Gephart of Kamado Grille (Feb. 22 winner).

At the end of the night, six plated courses, six beverages by two chefs and 100 percent of the net proceeds benefiting the Lucy Daniels Center, you can't go wrong. The competition runs through March.

For ticket information, go to