Saturday, March 3, 2012

WNC Chefs Challenge 2012 Kicks Off This Month


WNC Chefs Challenge | Tuesdays, March 20-May 22 | 6:30 p.m

Food and sport combine for the ultimate food fight! The WNC Chefs Challenge brings together 14 leading chefs from the region in weekly battles built around a secret ingredient. Diners enjoy six plated culinary creations (three from each team) that incorporate a secret ingredient and score each dish. The votes from the audience and a panel of professional chefs, journalists, and culinary experts are tallied. A winner will be announced at the end of the night and continues to the next round of competition.
The Century Room on the Park, located above Pack’s Tavern on 20 South Spruce Street in Asheville, will serve as host for the dinners each Tuesday, March 20 through May 22. The quarterfinals and semifinals will follow this summer. The grand finale will kick off Festival Weekend on Thursday, August 23.

Reservations are $49 per individual, and can be made by calling (828) 225-6944. Beverages, sales tax, and gratuity are not included.

March 20 Challenge: Square 1 vs. Storm Rhum Bar and Bistro

Rob Keener Owner and Chef, Square 1, Hendersonville www.square1cafe.com Competes: March 20 vs. Owen McGlynn, Storm Rhum Bar & Bistro
Culinary training:
I started working in kitchens when I was 13 and continued to do so through college. I took some years off and pursued other careers, but I always found my way back to the kitchen. I also studied at the French Culinary Institute in New York.
What do you do for fun outside the kitchen?
Mountain bike, kayak, and play with my kids.
What is your favorite dish to prepare for yourself?
I like to make big steaks. Porterhouse is my favorite.
A meal or a dish that, as a young chef, was an inspiration or a revelation? In fifth grade, we made crêpes. I immediately went home to experiment with that dish.
Where did you last dine out?
Standard Pizza Co., in Asheville
What would your last meal on Earth be, and where would you have it?
Tasting menu at Le Bernardin in New York City
What music do you like to listen to when you cook?
We just pick a channel on last.fm and let it decide for us—usually something fast and loud.
Who is your favorite cook, and why?
My grandmother, Mary Earnhardt. I learned to cook by watching her.
If you could live anywhere in the world, based on the food of the country or region, where would it be and why?
I really like Chile. The food seems primitive with a lot of potential for creative growth.
Owen McGlynn Executive Chef, Storm Rhum Bar & Bistro, Asheville www.stormrhumbar.com Competes: March 20 vs. Rob Keener, Square 1
Culinary training:
I studied at Johnson & Whales in Charleston, South Carolina.
What do you do for fun outside the kitchen?
Usually, I’m building Legos with my son, Nolan, who is 7, hanging out with my dogs, or just trying to spend some quality time relaxing on my couch.
What is your favorite dish to prepare for yourself?
I don't really have a favorite dish. I always try to cook something different and unique. It just depends on the time of year and what I’m in the mood for.
A meal or a dish that, as a young chef, was an inspiration or a revelation?
Definitely charcuterie. From the time I started working with it, I knew it would soon be my passion.
Where did you last dine out?
Las Meras Tortas in Greenville, South Carolina, an authentic Mexican taco shop
What would your last meal on Earth be, and where would you have it?
Anything around my dining room table with my son, Nolan, and my girlfriend, Mindi
What music do you like to listen to when you cook?I always have WNCW 88.7 FM on in the kitchen at work.
Who is your favorite cook, and why?
My mom, because everything is better when mom cooks it!
 

March 27 Challenge: Boca vs. Season’s Restaurant

Stewart Lyon Chef, Boca, Asheville www.bocaasheville.com Competes: March 27 vs. Peter Fassbender of Season’s Restaurant at Highland Lake Inn
Culinary training:
Associate’s degree in culinary arts and bachelor’s degree in food service management from Johnson & Wales
What do you do for fun outside the kitchen?
Hike and garden
What is your favorite dish to prepare for yourself?
A BLT, made with tomatoes from my garden in the summer
A meal or a dish that, as a young chef, was an inspiration or a revelation?
All the different ways to cook ramen noodles, and eating monkfish liver for the first time
Where did you last dine out?
Cucina24 in Asheville
What would your last meal on Earth be, and where would you have it?
A pig pickin’ with friends and family
What music do you like to listen to when you cook?
Depends on how we all feel in the kitchen. Highlights would be Sam Cooke, Bob Dylan, Avett Brothers, Blind Melon, and David Allan Coe
Who is your favorite cook, and why?
Nate Allen. Wonderful guy and a great cook. Really inspirational
If you could live anywhere in the world, based on the food of the country or region,
where would it be and why?

Oaxaca, Mexico, for its food and culture.
Peter Fassbender Executive Chef, Season’s Restaurant at Highland Lake Inn, Flat Rock www.hlinn.com Competes: March 27 vs. Stewart Lyon, Boca
Culinary training:
Graduated from Instituto de Los Andes in Lima, Peru, in 1998, where I obtained business management and chef degrees. In 2001, I graduated from the cuisine and pastry programs at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, France.
Awards:
Graduated with honors from Instituto de Los Andes and Le Cordon Bleu
What do you do for fun when you’re not in the kitchen?
I like to play golf and dine out. Since the birth of my first son in January 2011, I enjoy spending my free time with family.
What is your favorite dish to prepare for yourself?
I don’t have a favorite dish, but a plethora of them. In my top 10, I like making barbecue pork, meatloaf, and ceviche.
A meal or a dish that, as a young chef, was an inspiration or a revelation?
One dish in particular that captivated me at an early age was a fish dish from one of my first cookbooks. It was a compilation of recipes from Cordon Bleu. One in particular from Paul Bocuse really intrigued me. It was a potato scale-encrusted snapper with a trio of pureed quenelles of carrot, broccoli, and celery root served with a carrot and orange beurre blanc. The dish seemed like it had a lot going on, but incredibly enough, everything complemented each other. It was a true masterpiece, and at the time it opened my eyes to more elaborate dining.
Where did you last dine out?Devereaux’s in Greenville, South Carolina
What would your last meal on Earth be, and where would you have it?
If I knew I had only one meal left to eat, it would be seafood empanadas from Chile and I would have them at this joint in Vina del Mar, Chile, with my family. I can't remember the name of the place, but it evokes childhood memories.
What music do you like to listen to when you cook?It depends on what I am cooking, really. If it is outside grilling, I usually listen to ‘90s and ‘80s rock. If it’s formal, I find inspiration in classical music. When I do South American food, I like old-school salsa, particularly “Buena Vista Social Club.”
Who is your favorite cook, and why?
Salvador Vargas is definitely my favorite cook. He is our lead line cook at Season’s. His attention to detail, ability to faithfully reproduce our culinary creations, and hard work make him an invaluable asset. He is self-motivated and takes huge pride in the product he puts out. Usually, South American cooks are great. There is a very vast gastronomic diversity in their cuisine, and they take their food very seriously. It’s nothing they study in school, their heritage just makes them natural cooks.
If you could live anywhere in the world, based on the food of the country or region, where would it be and why?It would have to be either Italy or Spain. Italy for the love of their local products and the genius behind the simplicity of their dishes, and Spain due to the cultural diversity of their cuisine and the wide range of flavors found. Peru also has a special place in my heart.
April 3 Challenge: Fig Bistro vs. 12 Bones Smokehouse
Fig Bistro www.figbistro.com Competes: April 3 vs. Thomas Montgomery, 12 Bone Smokehouse
Thomas Montgomery Owner, 12 Bones Smokehouse, Asheville & Arden www.12bones.com Competes: April 3 vs. Fig Bistro
Culinary training:
New England Culinary Institute
What do you do for fun outside the kitchen?
Ride dirt bikes and hike
What is your favorite dish to prepare for yourself?
Anything smoked
A meal or a dish that, as a young chef, was an inspiration or a revelation?
Osso bucco
Where did you last dine out?
Cinnamon Kitchen, Asheville
What would your last meal on Earth be, and where would you have it?
Grilled cheese sandwich
What music do you like to listen to when you cook?
Metal
Who is your favorite cook, and why?
My wife, Sabra Kelley. She truly enjoys cooking.
If you could live anywhere in the world, based on the food of the country or region, where would it be and why?
Japan

April 10 Challenge: Red STAG Grill vs. Sunburst Trout Company

Adam Hayes Executive Chef, Red Stag Grill at Grand Bohemian, Asheville www.bohemianhotelasheville.com Competes: April 10 vs. Charles Hudson, Sunburst Trout Company
Culinary training:
School of hard knocks
Awards:
Rising Star of the Year and Leader of the Year, Kessler Collection Hotels
What do you do for fun outside the kitchen?
Play soccer
What is your favorite dish to prepare for yourself?
Braised short ribs
Where did you last dine out?
Green Tea Fusion, Asheville
What would your last meal on Earth be, and where would you have it?
Fried chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans, gravy, creamed corn, hush puppies, yeast rolls, and sweet tea at my grandmother’s house
What music do you like to listen to when you cook?Hank Williams the III
Who is your favorite cook, and why?
My Memaw. She makes the best green beans, pound cake, and fried apple pie.
If you could live anywhere in the world, based on the food of the country or region, where would it be and why?
Costa Rica. The people live a different lifestyle, enjoy a lot of seafood, and have great sustainability practices.
Charles Hudson Research and development chef, Sunburst Trout Farms www.sunbursttrout.com Competes: April 10 vs. Adam Hayes, Red Stag Grill

Culinary training:
Associate’s degree in culinary technology from Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College
Awards:
Hudson’s Smoked Tomato Jam wins first place in 2008 Buy Haywood value added product search; 1995 American Culinary Federation, North Carolina Seafood Challenge, Bronze Medal; 1995 North Carolina Pork Producers, Taste of Elegance, First Place, Showmanship; 1995 Western North Carolina Chef’s Association, Professional Hot Food Competition, Champion
What do you do for fun outside the kitchen?
Spend time with my daughter, snow ski, listen to music, play soccer, and garden
What is your favorite dish to prepare for yourself?
Fresh picked greens with a light vinaigrette, served with a seared or grilled piece of protein, goat cheese, and a good piece of bread
A meal or a dish that, as a young chef, was an inspiration or a revelation?
Scalloped potatoes. I just taught my daughter how to make them.

Where did you last dine out?
Posana Café in Asheville

What music do you like to listen to when you cook?
A diverse mix that depends on my mood—heavy metal, bluegrass, jam bands, techno, blues

Who is your favorite cook, and why?
My stepmother. I loved to watch her in the kitchen when I was a kid. She had an incredible sense of timing and was able to feed five children a tasty dinner, seven days a week, after working all day.

If you could live anywhere in the world, based on the food of the country or region, where would it be and why?
I would split my time between Western North Carolina and Southeast Ireland. I was in Kilkenny, Ireland, in 2010 and the food scene was incredible. There were many small farms and food entrepreneurs that produced some very fine products. It was very similar to Western North Carolina.

April 17 Challenge: The Magnetic Field Café & Bar vs. Lexington Avenue Brewery

Jason Rowland Co-chef, The Magnetic Field Café & Bar www.themagneticfield.com Competes: April 17 vs. Jason Roy, Lexington Avenue Brewery, Asheville
Culinary training:
I am an AB Tech culinary graduate trained in classical Southern cuisine, meats, and Cajun cooking.
What do you do for fun outside the kitchen?I play lead guitar in a band called The Narrow Plains, and enjoy raising my two-year-old son, August.
What is your favorite dish to prepare for yourself?
Being from Chesapeake Bay, my favorite dish is steamed blue crabs with a National Bohemian.
A meal or a dish that, as a young chef, was an inspiration or a revelation?
My mother’s basil pesto with Gruyère and bacon, a dish prepared completely from scratch. It opened my eyes to the possibilities you can create by combining different flavors in one dish.
Where did you last dine out?
Taqueria Gonzales, the best-kept secret in Asheville
What would your last meal on Earth be, and where would you have it?Fresh blue crabs on the Chesapeake Bay are something I’ll never get tired of.
What music do you like to listen to when you cook?
Miles Davis, The Allman Brothers, Black Sabbath, and others, depending on the moment
Who is your favorite cook, and why?My mother, for inspiring me to cook in the first place
If you could live anywhere in the world, based on the food of the country or region, where would it be and why?
Mexico for the heritage, big flavors, mastery of seafood, and slow cooking
Jason Roy Executive Chef, Lexington Avenue Brewery, Asheville www.lexavebrew.com Competes: April 17 vs. Jason Rowland, The Magnetic Field Café & Bar
Culinary training:
Three-year apprenticeship, graduated from The Art Institute in 1999 with honors
Awards:
Full scholarship to The Art Institute; WNC Chefs Challenge quarter-finalist in 2011
What do you do for fun outside the kitchen?
I have three chickens and love to garden. I paint and have an interest in mosaics. I love spending time with my son and wife.
What is your favorite dish to prepare for yourself?Ramen with fresh vegetables and a poached egg
A meal or a dish that, as a young chef, was an inspiration or a revelation?
Braised rabbit cannelloni with smoked tomato and eggplant caviar. I enjoyed the experience of making
pasta. Once you learn to manipulate pasta and dumplings, you can go a lot of directions with your food.
Where did you last dine out?
The best restaurants I dined at recently are Husk in Charleston, South Carolina, and my favorite local place, Cucina24.
What would your last meal on Earth be, and where would you have it?
True goat barbacoa prepared with curry on an open pit. The place doesn’t matter as long as I have about 75 of my friends sharing in the experience.
What music do you like to listen to when you cook?
I like up-tempo music when I'm cooking—fast paced dub and electronic rap mixed with a little hip-hop. I used to work under a chef in Colorado who was a DJ on the side. His stage name was DJ Creme Fraiche.
Who is your favorite cook, and why?
My favorite cook is my sous chef, Nohe, because his food comes from a place of purely raw talent. His cooking is derived from his soul and he extrudes a passion in his food that is uncontrollable and free.
If you could live anywhere in the world, based on the food of the country or region, where would it be and why?
Somewhere in the West Indies. The combination of great food cultures there has created a smash-up of tremendous cuisine. French-style Indian with traditional North African influenced by hints of Japanese. There’s nothing better in the world. The people of this region live for food and put everything they have into the regional dishes.

April 24 Challenge: Strada Restaurant & Bakehouse vs. Never Blue

Anthony Cerrato Chef and Owner, Strada Italian Restaurant & Bakehouse www.fioresasheville.com Competes: April 24 vs. Jesse Roque, Never Blue Tapas Bar & Grille

Culinary Training:Attended Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College
Awards:
Triangle Christmas Best & Most Creative Dessert; 2010 1st place Cheese Pizza in Pizza Wars; 2010 & 2011 Mountain Xpress Best of Italian Restaurants
What do you do for fun outside the kitchen?
Spend time with family, friends, and pets. The gatherings are all based around food and wine, of course.
What is your favorite dish to prepare for yourself?
Home-made mozzarella balls dipped in egg and rice vinegar, then flour, then fried, served with basil, roasted red peppers, extra virgin olive oil, and balsamic
A meal or dish, which as a young chef, was an inspiration or revelation?
Ricotta cheesecake. It got me into culinary school, too.
Where did you last dine out?
The Bavarian. Not Italian, yet so good. Go figure.
What would your last meal on Earth be and where would you have it?
Comfort food. Escarole with cannellini beans, spicy Italian sausage, with Italian crusty bread for dipping
What music do you listen to when you cook?
Red Hot Chili Peppers
Who is your favorite cook, and why?
My grandmother, hands down. And boy, could she bake!
If you could live anywhere in the world, based on the food of the country or region, where would it be, and why?
Italy, of course!
Jesse Roque Co-owner and Executive Chef, Never Blue Tapas Bar & Grille, Hendersonville, and Blue Gypsy, Saluda
www.theneverblue.com Competes: April 24 vs. Anthony Cerrato, Fiore’s Restaurant & Bakehouse
Culinary training:
Attended Johnson & Wales University in Charleston, South Carolina
Awards:
Best mommy chef ever, according to my kids
What do you do for fun when you’re not in the kitchen?
Play with my kids and husband
What is your favorite dish to prepare for yourself?Veggie tacos
A meal or a dish that, as a young chef, was an inspiration or a revelation?
Bread pudding
What was the last restaurant you dined at?
UMI in Hendersonville
What would your last meal on Earth be, and where would you have it?
Anything fried, at home with my family
What music do you like to listen to when you cook?
Rap
Who is your favorite cook, and why?
My husband, because he knows how to cook amazing Mexican food
If you could live anywhere in the world, based on the food of the country or region, where would it be and why?
The Yucatan Peninsula, because the food is amazing and ingenious and the region is warm and beautiful.

May 1 Challenge: Inn on Biltmore Estate vs. winner of March 20 competition

David Ryba Chef de Cuisine, Inn on Biltmore Estate www.biltmore.com Competes: May 1 vs. winner of March 20 competition
Culinary training:
Indiana University of Pennsylvania Academy of Culinary Arts
Awards:
2008 winner of the South Central Regional Jeune Commis Competition. Placed third in Jeune Commis National Competition 2008 (Chaine des Rotisseur), Assisted Chef Rick Boyer, the winner of the 2010 WNC Chefs Challenge
What do you do for fun when you’re not in the kitchen?
Fly-fish
What is your favorite dish to prepare for yourself?
Risotto
A meal or a dish that, as a young chef, was an inspiration or a revelation?
Osso bucco. First time I ate veal osso bucco, I just fell in love with cooking.
What was the last restaurant you dined at?
Knife & Fork in Spruce Pine
What would your last meal on Earth be, and where would you have it?
Barbecue pork in the backyard with friends and family
What music do you like to listen to when you cook?
Country
Who is your favorite cook, and why?
My mom. I grew up eating a meal at 3:30 every day and it was always made with love.
If you could live anywhere in the world, based on the food of the country or region, where would it be and why?
The U.S. We live in a country with great mix of different cultures and cuisine.

May 22 Challenge: Knife & Fork vs. winner of April 24 competition

Nate Allen
Chef and Owner, Knife & Fork, Spruce Pine
www.knifeandforknc.com
Competes: May 22 vs. winner of April 24 competition
Awards:
WNC Chefs Challenge Champion 2011; Cooking Light magazine’s Small-town Trailblazing Chef of the Year 2011
What do you do for fun when you’re not in the kitchen?
I play the drums or sit on my porch and read. Then I grill something outside. It’s still cooking, but not in the kitchen.
What is your favorite dish to prepare for yourself?Spicy Thai coconut soup
A meal or a dish that, as a young chef, was an inspiration or a revelation?
Pollo en mole negro. I saw this in a Culinary Institute of America cookbook and was very curious how so many diverse ingredients could come together harmoniously. It was great but after moving to southern California and eating that dish as often as possible for 10 years, I actually know how to make it.
What was the last restaurant you dined at?
Husk in Charleston, South Carolina. It was outstanding. Chef Sean Brock is really elevating Southern cuisine by helping to preserve the ingredients that make the region unique.
What would your last meal on earth be and where would you have it?
Fire-roasted pork at my friend Gaelan Corazine’s Green Toe Ground Farm, in the sunshine, on July Fourth, with my feet in the Toe River, surrounded by the laughter and splashing and sauce-smeared faces of friends
What music do you like to listen to when you cook?
Lately, I’ve been calming myself during the rush with the classical musings of George F. Handel.
Who is your favorite cook, and why?
Cristina Cornejo-Long of Los Angeles. She is the coolest kitchen nerd I know. I have the most fun when we are in the kitchen together singing and volleying ideas to one another.
If you could live anywhere in the world, based on the food of the country or region, where would it be and why?
Paris. They appreciate the true joys of life, food, and love as they are—truly inseparable.

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