Competition Dining Starts With An Upset
The Got to Be NC Competition Dining Series returned to Charlotte yesterday with a slightly different format—and a surprising first result.
This year, instead of individual chefs selecting their teams and then going head-to-head like they did in 2015, culinary professionals assembled in groups of three to create their "All-Star Dream Team." With the revised format comes a change in scheduling: Fewer matchups are slated for this year, leaving guests with fewer chances to attend one of the six-course dinners.
What doesn't change: the chance for audience members to join in on the fun. Diners get to vote for their favorite dishes, doing so so electronically using an app on their phones.
Last night, the 3 Cooks team, led by Captain Paul Verica of Heritage, lost to the Radical Range Riders, led by Chef Adam Reed of Santé in Matthews. Verica's team included Chef Joe Bonaparte, a seasoned veteran who has taught many area chefs, and Pastry Chef Ashley Boyd of both Heritage and 300 East. With Verica and Boyd holding the number one spot in our 50 Best Restaurants issue and with decades of combined restaurant experience between the three of them, the 3 Cooks were considered a favorite by many.
The Radical Range Riders were not intimidated by such facts, however. Reed assembled a team of culinary instructors, choosing Chef Terra Ciotta of The Art Institute and Jess Cochran of Central Piedmont Community College to help with the daunting task of firing up three memorable courses using secret ingredients revealed only on the day of competition. In the end, their dishes, which showcased locally-grown chiles and locally-sourced cocoa nibs and chocolate, prevailed.
The Riders will go on to the semifinal, where they'll face the winners of tonight's contest between Bistro 127 of Hickory and Vicious and Delicious, a team led by the Executive Chef of the Southminster retirement community. The winning team heads to Raleigh to for the Battle of Champions, where they will compete against five other teams from across the state.
The winner of last year's Charlotte-area competition was Chef Brent Martin of Summit Room. In 2014, Chef Jon Fortes, then of Mimosa Grill, went on to win the statewide competition.
Tickets are still on sale for three of the six remaining events, with waitlists available for the semi-final and final rounds. Those interested may purchase tickets online.