Sixteen Triangle chefs will soon engage in another round of competitive cooking as part of third annual Fire in the Triangle event. Got to Be NC Competition Dining Series founder Jimmy Crippen welcomed participants this morning, including last year’s Triangle winner, Chef Dean Thompson of Flights at the Renaissance Hotel at North Hills.
The series of 15 dinner events are based around one or more surprise ingredients, which are not revealed to competitors until the morning of each contest. All ingredients are either grown or produced in North Carolina. By recording their feedback in a smartphone app, ticket-buying diners have as much say in the outcome as do a panel of guest judges.
This year, Fire in the Triangle stretches beyond the traditional tri-county boundary to include Pup’s Steakhouse in Wilson. Weathervane in Chapel Hill returns, but this time under new Chef Spencer Carter. Additionally, the series will feature the female chef for this region, Beth LittleJohn of Raleigh’s Coquette Brasserie.
“It’s still a guy’s game, as you can see by looking at this room, but women chefs are finally getting the attention we deserve,” says LittleJohn, noting Ashley Christensen’s selection as Best Chef Southeast by the James Beard Foundation. “I’m feeling good about my chances.”
All Fire in the Triangle events will be held at 1705 Prime, located at 1605 E. Millbrook Road, Raleigh. Chefs and restaurants spotlighted in the first-round bracket include:
- June 23: Dean Thompson of Flights and Joseph Yarnell of Cantina 18 in Raleigh
- June 24: John Childers of Herons at The Umstead in Cary and Scott Yankovictz of The Station in Raleigh
- June 25: Spencer Carter of Weathervane at Southern Season in Chapel Hill and Nunzio Scordo of Driftwood Southern Kitchen in Raleigh
- June 30: Christopher Hill of The Oxford in Raleigh and Yunes Sabou of City Kitchen in Chapel Hill
- July 1: Serge Falcoz-Vigne of 518 West in Raleigh and James Clark of Carolina Crossroads at the Carolina Inn in Chapel Hill
- July 2: Peter Spear of Pup’s Steakhouse in Wilson and Adam Jones of Dean’s Seafood Bar & Grill in Cary
- July 7: Sean Fowler of Mandolin in Raleigh and Steve Zanini of Jimmy V’s Steakhouse & Tavern in Cary
- July 8: Regan Strachler of Little Hen in Apex and Beth LittleJohn of Coquette Brasserie in Raleigh
Laurence Willard is the competition’s executive chef and the person responsible for selecting the surprise ingredients. Foods introduced during the current Fire in the Triad contest include Texas Pete’s new Cha! sriracha sauce, manufactured in Winston-Salem, and chestnut flour from High Rock Farm in Gibsonville. The Triad contest will conclude on June 2.
“The chestnut flour was a good challenge,” grins Willard, who surprised chefs by using it on two consecutive nights. “We’re looking at some incredible North Carolina cheeses and have connected with a new mushroom grower in Hickory. We hope to use giant trumpet mushrooms during the Triangle events.”
The Fire in the Triangle winner will receive $2,000, a handmade culinary knife from Steve Watkins of Ironman Forge in Charlotte, and a coveted red chef jacket. Each regional winner will move on to the championship, which will be held in Raleigh in November. The grand prize is a trip to the Culinary Institute of America’s Greystone program in Napa Valley.
Tickets are $59 for preliminary and quarter-final Raleigh rounds and $69 for the final battle, which will be held on Aug. 4. For information or to order tickets, visit www.competitiondining.com.