Chefs compete, you win | Food Feature | Indy Week
Pin It

Chefs compete, you win 

Chef Brandon Stark of Michael's Seafood

Courtesy Got to Be NC Competition Dining Series

Chef Brandon Stark of Michael's Seafood

Being in the middle of two competing chefs using all their tricks is surprisingly intense—and fun.

The culinary battle I was witnessing was between Chef Benjamin Guaman from Governors Club in Chapel Hill and Chef Brandon Stark from Michael's Seafood in Carolina Beach. They were matched in the Feb. 3 preliminary round of the Got to Be NC Competition Dining Series.

Competing chefs are given a secret ingredient shortly before the evening begins. They make three courses, incorporating that ingredient in each of them. Other ingredients come from a "mobile pantry" provided by competition organizers. The chefs may not make a dish that is served on their restaurant's menu or considered one of their signature dishes. Passing judgment are three pros, whose votes count for 30 percent, and a dining room full of "Joes," who vote via a phone app.

A collective sigh of relief mixed with cheers went up when the room learned that evening's secret ingredient was apples from Perry Lowe Orchards. Much more appealing than, say, N.C.-grown rutabagas!

If you're an incredibly picky eater, stay home. You cede control to the chefs. You won't know which chef made which dish, nor what the dish is until a few minutes before it arrives at your table. You may be served something relatively tame, such as Guaman's Pink Lady Apple Scottish Salmon with parsnip mousseline, sautéed Lacinato kale and apple beurre blanc.

On the other hand, the chef may take a risk, as Stark did, and whip up Gold Rush Apple-marinated Octopus with honey crispy apple slaw, apple caviar, crispy kombu seaweed and apple broth. That gamble paid off, because it was one of the most enjoyable dishes of the evening. It earned a score of 27.442 (the Joes gave it a 29.203 while the pros, who tend to grade more sternly, gave it a 23.333). In comparison, the salmon earned a 26.092 from the Joes and a 22 from the pros.

Stark's second dish was apple-and-chorizo braised veal cheeks with apple roasted finglering sweet potatoes, apple spinach grits, apple guacamole and bourbon apple reduction (24.744 overall). I would have happily rolled barrels of both the grits and the guac to my car if such a thing were feasible. His third, the highest scoring dish of the night (the pro I sat next to said desserts almost always score higher) was an apple sponge cake with caramel cream cheese icing, apple cinnamon ice cream and a baked apple chip. It racked up a well-deserved 28.433.

Guaman's other dishes were an apple and butternut squash stuffed duck breast (21.906, evidence of how tricky duck can be) and an apple cornmeal pound cake with honey tuile (25.121).

Two quarterfinal rounds remain. On Feb. 16 Chelsi Hogue of Ed's Southern Food & Spirits in Goldsboro battles Curt Shelvey of Curt's Cucina in Southern Pines. On Feb. 17, Spencer Carter of Weathervane in Chapel Hill faces Stark. Winners advance to the semifinals and then the finals March 2. Of course, you can be a winner without all the high-stakes culinary stress—just go eat.

  • Competition Dining Series takes place this week

Related Locations

Speaking of Rocky Top Hospitality & 1705 Prime

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

INDY Week publishes all kinds of comments, but we don't publish everything.

  • Comments that are not contributing to the conversation will be removed.
  • Comments that include ad hominem attacks will also be removed.
  • Please do not copy and paste the full text of a press release.

Permitted HTML:
  • To create paragraphs in your comment, type <p> at the start of a paragraph and </p> at the end of each paragraph.
  • To create bold text, type <b>bolded text</b> (please note the closing tag, </b>).
  • To create italicized text, type <i>italicized text</i> (please note the closing tag, </i>).
  • Proper web addresses will automatically become links.

Latest in Food Feature



Twitter Activity

Comments

We went here with friends one evening before the theatre. Best New Orleans food we have found in the Raleigh. …

by Dee Oberle on The Big Easy (Wake County)

Everything very unprofessional. They just want to charge you an "revolutionary fee" with all the service making pressure on you. …

by feullies on Blue Note Grill (Durham County)

Most Read

No recently-read stories.

Visit the archives…

Most Recent Comments

Thanks mr.bell

by Sheissobad on Sankofa Farms Plants Seeds of Empowerment for Black Youth in Durham (Food Feature)

Thank you Mr. Bell, this program is a much needed blessing. You have given these children a little more hope …

by Diana Carter on Sankofa Farms Plants Seeds of Empowerment for Black Youth in Durham (Food Feature)

Mr. Bell, Thanks for being that Servant Leader that the NC Public Education System so desperately needs. For those of …

by Hawkins O'Neal on Sankofa Farms Plants Seeds of Empowerment for Black Youth in Durham (Food Feature)

Anyone who would eat a whole cup of cashews isn't doing it right. Eat a small handful, and you get …

by Ken Cory on No carbs? Go nuts with cashews (Food Feature)

There is literally no food on this planet that is worth a 90 minute wait.

by MichyMitch on Two Hundred Varieties of Brown Booze and Southern Cooking Shine Together at Whiskey Kitchen (Food Feature)

© 2017 Indy Week • 201 W. Main St., Suite 101, Durham, NC 27701 • phone 919-286-1972 • fax 919-286-4274
RSS Feeds | Powered by Foundation