Competition Dining is a North Carolina-centric competition between local chefs. The bracket-style competition takes place across four cities: Charlotte, Winston-Salem, Raleigh, and Greenville, South Carolina. The winning chefs from each city compete in a final Battle of Champions, where one chef is declared the overall winner. To win, the chefs must each prepare three courses, incorporating two secret ingredients into their dishes. One appealing aspect of the competition is that the secret ingredients only include items grown and/or produced in North Carolina and the surrounding region. From strawberries, dairy, meats, chocolate, to a whole range of produce, the competition truly highlights the breadth of the state’s agriculture and food production.
Of course, the best of the evening is getting to eat and judge the three courses prepared by each chef (six in total). Each dish is served without disclosing by whom it was prepared. The audience then votes via a mobile application on a series of attributes including presentation, aroma, flavor (overall), flavor (secret ingredient), execution, creativity, use of secret ingredient, and accompaniments. To keep the scoring somewhat balanced, the competition uses a weighted scoring system of pros (culinary professionals) and Joes (the rest of the audience). Scores are revealed at the end of the night and the winning team moves onto the next round.
To date, I have attended three competition dining events. The most recent one was between Chef Clark Barlowe of Heirloom Restaurant and Chef Mike Suppa of Vivace and was held at the Bonterra Dining and Wine Room.
Each dinner begins with bread from Cary’s La Farm Bakery. The bread is shipped specially from the Cary, NC, bakery to the competition location and is some of the best bread I have had outside of France, thanks to the skill and talent of its Master Baker, Lionel Vatinet.