Thursday, February 3, 2011

Fire on the Rock Chef Challenge - Round 1

In the beginning, there was the Japanese cooking show, Iron Chef, which I confess I found unappealing. Weird ingredients, weird dishes. But then came Top Chef. I've seen every episode of every season. And the reunions. And Top Chef Masters and even Top Chef Desserts, even though I am not at all in to making that kind of dessert. I am currently enamored of Top Chef All-Stars and The Worst Cooks in America and tivo Chopped. I'll watch Iron Chef America and Hell's Kitchen if nothing else is on, and can't wait for the new season of The Next Food Network Star. Are you sensing a theme? What can I say? There are way worse obsessions.

Through these many hours of watching competitive cooking, I have honed my food judging skills. That scallop does not have a proper sear on it! The risotto is too stiff! The sauce is separating and is visually unappealing! But, no one has ever asked me to judge, until now...

Fire on the Rock is a local chef challenge in its third year. I had never been before Tuesday night's first heat, but I've already got my eye on at least two other nights I want to attend. Along the lines of Iron Chef, in each round, they line up the head chefs of two restaurants, along with their sous chefs, give them a secret ingredient, and each team produces 3 dishes. For $40, you can be served and judge the six dishes. What fun! We scored each dish on visual appeal, aroma, overall taste, use of the special ingredient (double points), and accompaniments. The winner of each round progresses up the ladder until one chef is left standing.

The night's secret ingredient was ginger. My two favorite dishes of the night were the Slow Braised Pork Belly with a Thai Ginger Soy Reduction, Roasted Mushrooms, and Ginger Sweet Potato Wonton (the second highest scoring dish of the night):and the Green Tea & Ginger Panna Cotta with Ginger-infused Berry Compote & a Ginger Lemon Palmier:


(Note: these are not my photos, I pulled them off the Fire on the Rock Facebook page and am trying to find out whose they are so I can give credit!)

Both dishes were by the chef who ended up on the bottom that evening, Josh Grogan of Crave. His downfall was clearly a risotto topped with shrimp and scallop. And while I looooved the panna cotta, it did not scream ginger like his competitor's (also delicious!) ice cream.

Also in my top three was the highest scoring dish of the night by the champion James Welch of Green Park Inn, Ginger-Honey Marinated & Grilled Leg of Lamb with Asian Slaw, Teriyaki Sauce& Fried Wontons:One of my students from last semester was our waiter for the evening. He let the owner of the restaurant hosting the event, Jimmy Crippen of Crippens, know I had been his accounting professor so our table had the great honor of being "guest counters" for the evening. After all the diners' score cards had been collected, we went up and checked the math. Big Woohoo there. We were hoping we would get comped a bottle of wine for our efforts, but it was not to be.

Great food, great night, and I can't wait to try my hand at cooking pork belly and making panna cotta!


4 comments:

Virginia said...

Very cool! I hope something like this will develop in Memphis. We'd love to eat & judge. We are also avid watchers of the Worst Cook in America show, and eagerly awaiting the return of the Next Food Network Star.

Lynn said...

This goes on every Tuesday and Wednesday nights during February and March -- an otherwise slow period for the restaurant scene. It is a fundraiser for the Blowing Rock Fire Dept. Maybe the newest fund-raising event for the Child Advocacy Center?

Jimmy said...

Thanks for the cool article Lynn. I see I owe you a bottle! It woulod be a pleasure. I look forward to your next visit and thanks for being my guest counter for the evening.

Lynn said...

Thanks! We really enjoyed our evening. We have plans to come back for March 16 and 22. We have friends coming next week on 2/22 -- I'll be watching on Facebook to see if you post anything about cancellations...