Meet your “Fire in the Triangle” Chefs for Battle #4, The Midtown Grille vs Ashten’s Restaurant & Pub

Week two and battles four , five and six of the NC Competiontion Dining Series, “Fire in the triangle’” is about to heat up again starting tomorrow night. Beginning the second week of  battles is Chef Scott James of The Midtown Grille, Raleigh vs Chef Matthew Hannon of Ashten’s Restaurant & Pub, Southern Pines and if lasts weeks secret ingredients were any indication of what’s to come, we are all in for some great surprises.

Covering last weeks daily recaps of each event was Matt Lardie of Green Eats Blog. Thank you Matt for your attending dinner each evening (I know it was a real chore, lol), and providing us all with your review of each battle. This week I’d like to introduce two new guest bloggers, Gabrielle Kaasa and her 9yr old son Noah. They will cover the event tomorrow night and I am sure Noah’s take on the battle will entertain us all. Noah is a foodie in the making and knows more about ingredients and styles of cooking than many of us adults…..and he is not afriad to share his opinion =).  I am finally back home tomorrow and will cover Tuesday and Wednesday. Bios below.

You can follow us on twitter for up to the minute updates during the event @durhamfoodie, @nutellaisevil, or check back here each day for the recap.

The Got to Be Nc North Carolina Competition Dining Series showcases the our North Carolina Culinary talent and agricultural bounty. Last weeks battles brought NC blueberries, Lusty Monk Mustard out of Asheville, and everyone’s favorite, Johntson County Country Ham. One can only guess what this weeks secret ingredients will be and I can’t wait to see how the Chef’s handle it.

How it works: Each Got To Be NC Competition Dining chef challenge (also called a “battle”) features six courses prepared by two chefs cooking elbow-to-whisk in the event kitchen. The series starts with 16 chef teams of three members each. They cook in bracketed, single-elimination dinners until the final winner emerges. The winning chef receives $2500 and the coveted red chef’s jacket.

Each team builds their three courses for the evening around a “secret” or “featured” ingredient. The ingredient is revealed at noon before the chefs start to prep the night’s meal.  NC Competition Dining work withs the North Carolina Department of Agriculture to select the secret ingredients.

The Competition Dining Series benefits the Office of the State Fire Marshal in North Carolina to support local fire fighters, as cooking is the number one cause of house fires. Instructional tips about kitchen fire safety will be shared during each event.

Each evening, Founder and Host Jimmy Crippen will announce the secret ingredient to an excited group of guest diners. You don’t have to be in attendance to enjoy the fun though. Just follow #CompDiningNC on twitter and follow the conversation, view pictures of each course and chat with others following the hashtag. I know I was glued to my phone each evening during last weeks battles and it was great fun =)

Meet Your Chefs for Battle #4 (And a Q & A with Chef Hannon)

Chef Scott James

Scott James: Midtown Grille in Raleigh, NC

My cooking style is: Regional American with a local influence.

My competitive advantage is: that I’m at my best when competing.  I’ve loved competitions ever since I was a child, and I like to test myself in tough situations. I want to seize the opportunity to show people what we can do at Midtown Grille.


Chef Matthew Hannon

Matthew Hannon: Ashten’s in Southern Pines, NC

My cooking style is:  Global cuisine from a Southern perspective

The NC ingredients I use are:  Everything from produce, lamb, and pork to beef, flour, and even cornmeal.  It’s important that the public knows the chef community is also contributing and supporting the local food movement.

Q & A with Chef Matthew Hannon

Me: With the competition dining series focusing on NC products, how do you as a chef incorporate local ingredients onto your menu?

Matthew: I try to incorporate as many local ingredients into our menu as possible. Ashten’s menu is ever evolving, changing with what is in season, as many times a three or four times a season.

Me: How Important is sourcing locally for your restaurant to you?

Matthew: Sourcing local is super important! Over the years I have built strong relationships with many of our local farmers. Not only do we know our food, we know our farmer, their families, and their values. This in turn gives me a deeper respect for the food that they bring to our back door.

Me: As for the secret ingredient, what are you most hoping for?

Matthew: As for a secret ingredient…. I would have to say my favorite NC ingredient would be…… Man it’s so tough! There are so many! Cheese would be a good one. There are so many great cheeses in NC.

Me: Least hoping for?

Matthew: As far as least hoping for… Beef and chicken!

Me: How have you prepped yourself and your two helpers for this event?

Matthew: Prepping up for the main event takes the ability to think on your feet and work well under pressure. Sourcing locally in a small restaurant is a breading ground for these two traits. There is never a dull moment! We never know when a farmer is gonna show up with say…. 10 cases of asparagus, a truck load of berries, or enough squash to fill the walk in during crunch time on a busy night. We can’t turn them away so we have to be creative.

Me: Do you have a strategy for winning over your opponent?

Matthew: As far as a strategy is concerned we are gonna do what we always do and keep true to what we what we believe. Let the ingredients speak for them self! When blessed with such great NC products I do as little as possible to them so they stand out and shine. I always want my guest to taste NC!

Me: What do you think it takes to win?

Matthew: I think what it takes to win is the ability to think fast, work under pressure, and cook great food!

Me: Aside from winning, of course, what are you looking to walk away from this experience with?

Matthew: I am so excited to be apart of this competition win or lose! This is a chance to step outside my kitchen and cook side by side with NC’s greats, chefs that I look up too! We will get to step away from our normal day to day grind and see other techniques, cooking styles, and great ideas in local food. To me this is at the same level as winning.

Guest Bloggers

Noah Kaasa is a kid who loves good food and loves to talk about it. He is a a rising fourth grader and lives in Durham, NC with his family.

Gabrielle is a partner in Succotashed. At Succotashed, our personal chefs offer in-home culinary education and event catering. Our mission is to create inspired, seasonal cuisine with simple, real, and delicious foods. Learn more about our workshops and events. Read our blog for delicious recipes, insightful articles, and helpful cooking tips. When she’s not in the kitchen, Gabrielle enjoys writing, photography, and adventuring with her partner, Bill, and son, Noah.

Triangle location for all dinners: 1705 Prime Catering and Events, the premier private event space for Rocky Top Catering at 1705 East Millbrook Road, Raleigh, NC 27609;

Special thanks to the NC Competition Dining Series Sponsors, without their support, we would not have the privilege of attending such a series of events here in NC.

SPONSORS: The North Carolina Department of Agriculture (NCDA), Southern Foods/ Pate Dawson, OUR STATE Magazine, Crippen’s Country Inn & Restaurant in Blowing Rock and H.ITS Technology. Local sponsors include the Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitors Bureau and Independent Weekly.


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