Meet your “Fire on the Rock” Chefs, Battle Two

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Last night marked the beginning of “Fire on the Rock” Asheville,the first series of the “Got to be NC” Competition Dining of 2013. Chef Peter Pollay of Posana Cafe cooked against Chef Scott Wallace of Rankin Vault in Battle Cheese. The winner; Chef Pollay from Posana Cafe. Look for my brief recap shortly.

This unique 15-dinner competition dining experience will travel across five different regions of the state starting in Asheville, January 14- 30 with “Fire in the Rock.” Each evening, two restaurants “battle” it out side by side in a single elimination, “Iron Chef”-style format. Each chef must create three courses, for a total of six plates, each using a “secret” North Carolina Ingredient. What will it be tonight?

You can follow the experience on Facebook and Twitter. If using Twitter, you can follow the conversation using the hashtag #CompDiningNC.

As for tonight, here are your chefs. Meet Adam Hayes from the Red Stag Grill and John Strauss from Hobnob.

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Red Stag Grill, named after a type of deer indigenous to middle Europe, is located in the luxurious Grand Bohemian Hotel and offers local European-inspired comfort food. To learn more about Chef Hayes, take a peek at his Q & A below. He mentions the secret ingredient he is least hoping for is mustard or cheese. Well cheese has been done, but mustard…..we’ll just have to wait until tonight to find out.

Hobnob, located in the quaint town of Brevard in an old family home, “offers big city dining” in a comfortable atmosphere. Chef Strauss says his cooking style is farm-to-table Louisiana Fusion. To find out more about Chef Strauss, watch his YouTube video below.

The Secret NC ingredient will be announced to the chefs at noon, after which time they will have the afternoon discuss, plan and prepare three courses each to a sold out crowd. And if you haven’t purchased your tickets to any of the remaining battles, tickets are selling quickly. Go here to get yours.

Guests will be given an opportunity to vote on each dish based on a set criteria, some of which include taste, presentation, execution and use of secret ingredient; does it shine in the dish or fall flat. Judges will also be on hand and the combination of votes between the “pros” (judges) and the “joes” (guests) will be tallied up to determine the winner.

Good Luck Chefs!

For more information about Competition Dining; rules, chef bios, tickets and more. Visit www.competitiondining.com

ADAM HAYES OF RED STAG GRILL

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My cooking style is: Classical, rustic, real, traditional, simplistic, not pretentious!

My competitive advantage is: my passion for NC agriculture – local farms – and my cooking skills! I love a good challenge! I am winner of the Best Dish NC Award for the 2012 Fine Dining category.

Q & A with Chef Hayes

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

Hayes: We have NC products everywhere on the menu.  We focus on sourcing new products every day.  NC has a lot to offer in the way of unique produce, artisan made products, and small production items.  When I put Cheerwine on tap at the restaurant, everyone in the hotel came up and thanked me for it.  I don’t think we even sell it to the guest, the staff drinks it all!

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

Hayes: It’s really important.  Things are fresher and you have more of a personal connection with the farmers and producers.  I don’t have a clue what the farming practices are in Peru, but I do know what they are doing at Dry Ridge Farms in Weaverville, because I’ve been there and got the full tour from Wendy and Graham.  You can’t get everything locally for a Hotel operation, so all we can do is try to create some type of balance.  We offer an a la carte menu that has local steaks on it.  Brasstown beef, Hickory Nut Gap grass-fed beef and Carolina Bison.

Me: Is this your first experience in the Competition Dining Series? If yes, what made you decide to compete? If no, what was the most important thing you learned in last year’s competition?

Hayes: I have competed in the WNC chefs challenge for the last three years.  Unfortunately, we are cursed as a first round loser each year.  I hope to shake that this year!  Be consistent!  Cook what you know, be slightly adventurous, showcase the ingredient, and have fun!  I wanted to compete in the Fire on the Rock, because it supports NC agriculture and it is a competition that goes all across the state of NC

Me: As for the secret ingredient, what are you most hoping for?  Pork or Sweet potatoes

Me: Least hoping for?

Mustard, cheese

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

Hayes: Caught up on my reading, Checked out some standard recipes, worked the line, looked at the past challenges to see what scored well

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

Hayes: We are going to show up and be focused with only one thing in mind-One Little Victory!

Me: What do you think it takes to win?

Hayes: Teamwork, discipline, focus, well thought out plate-ups, great use of the ingredient

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

Hayes: A couple of new menu items =)

Me: Any other comments you would like people to know about you and your team?

Hayes: We have a great team.  It’s hard to pick the players on the team, so we have them all coming to the first challenge to dine and vote.  It’s not often we close the restaurant to refinish the floors and have everyone off on the same day.  The team is pumped up and excited for the challenge.  So essentially, we will all be there together, as one team.

CHEF JOHN STRAUSS OF HOBNOB

John Strauss

My cooking style is: Farm-to-table-Lousiana Fusion

The NC ingredients I use are: catfish, trout, beef, chicken, and local, seasonal vegetables including what we grow in our own 1-acre garden.

“The “Got To Be NC” Competition Dining Series is a brand new event sponsored by the North Carolina Department of AgricultureSouthern Foods/Pate Dawson,Crippen’s Country Inn & RestaurantOur State magazine and local partners in each region of the state. The goal of the series is to celebrate local North Carolina products and agriculture and to showcase the culinary ingenuity and talent across our state.

To find out more about Asheville’s “Fire on the Rock,” and to purchase tickets, go here. To keep up with the competition, stop by my blog each morning to meet that evenings competing chefs, and again the following morning for a battle recap.

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