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Charlotte heats up with Fire in the City
Local chefs test their culinary skills in a statewide dining competition
Published Thursday, July 24, 2014 7:00 am
by Michaela L. Duckett

Televised dining competitions like “Top Chef,” “Hell’s Kitchen,” “The Next Iron Chef,” and “Chopped” are wildly popular. However, they have a major drawback. Viewers can’t taste the food.

When the Fire in the City dining competition kicks off in Charlotte next month, attendees will not only have the experience of tasting, they get to participate as judges.

“This is nothing like any of those chef shows,” said Competition Dining Executive Chef Laurence Willard, who referees the competitions. “These chefs are preparing for 120 guests, and each chef has to prepare three dishes. They are not preparing one dish for a panel of three judges. This is like a cooking show on steroids.”

Tickets to the interactive battles, which take place August 18 - September 29 in Charlotte, are available at www.competitiondining.com

The competition is part of the Got to Be NC Competition Dining Series, a single-elimination tournament highlighting the best of the state’s food, agriculture and culinary talent.  The series includes 15 dinner experiences in which two chefs battle it out and diners serve as judges for a blind six-course meal.

The twist is that the chefs must prepare three courses incorporating a “secret” or featured ingredient sourced from North Carolina. Featured ingredients are revealed to the chefs an hour before they start cooking.

“We are always trying to source something new each year,” said Willard. “We work with local farmers, dairy people and artisans. It’s been everything from wine to produce.”

At the dinner events, guests savor and grade the combined six courses without knowing which chef prepared each. Along with scores from professional judges, results are tallied and a winner is named, sending one chef home and moving the winner on to the next round.

Chefs from across the region applied to take part in the competition. Final participants were selected based on culinary talent, menu development experience, training, personality and creativity, among other factors.

Chefs chosen from the Charlotte area include: Luca Annunziata of Passion8, Clark Barlowe of Heirloom Restaurant, Tom Dyrness of Mama Ricotta’s, Brian Mottola of e2 emeril’s eatery, David Feimster of Fahrenheit, David Quintana of Southminster, David Moore of Gallery Restaurant, Ben Philpott of Block and Grinder, Brent Martin of The Summit Room, Jon Spencer of Epic Chophouse and Chillfire Bar & Grill, Chris Coleman of The Asbury, Brian Williams of Upstream, Nicolas Daniels of The Wooden Vine, Paul Ketterhagen of Carpe Diem, Jon Fortes of Mimosa Grill and David Sullivan of Fish Market Bar and Grill.

For scheduled dates and brackets, visit www.competitiondining.com.

Local chefs will compete for a grand prize of $2,000, a handmade chef knife by Ironman Forge and the coveted Red Chef Jacket.

Regional competitions were held this year in four other cities – Raleigh, Wilmington, Asheville and Greensboro. Winners from each of the five regions will move on to compete for more money and prizes in the Final Fire Battle of Champions, which will be hosted in Raleigh this November.

“The Got to Be NC Competition Dining Series is part of a larger movement,” said Jimmy Crippen, Competition Dining Series founder and host. “Because we are all chefs, farmers or diners, our mission is to connect and celebrate regional communities through a dynamic, entertaining culinary experience. The events are interactive not only with guests grading the dishes through the app, but also connecting together. You walk around these events and table after table, diners are socializing and debating with everyone around them.”

All Charlotte events will be held at Bonterra Dining & Wine Room, located at 1829 Cleveland Ave. Tickets for preliminary and quarterfinal battle dinners are $59. Tickets to the semifinals and final battle are $69.

For updates, follow @CompDiningNC on Twitter or Instagram


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