It’s finally Charlotte’s turn to catch fire.
The N.C. chef competition that started with Fire on the Rock in Blowing Rock, then spread to Wilmington, the Triad and the Triangle, will arrive here Sept. 3-Oct. 21 as Fire in the City.
“They really wanted to make sure they were ready for Charlotte,” says Susan Dosier, a spokesperson for the event.
Fire on the Rock was started eight years ago by Jimmy Crippen of Crippen’s in Blowing Rock.
Set up like an Iron Chef competition with a secret – N.C.-made, of course – ingredient, it was a glitzy show set up as an auditorium experience.
In 2012, the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Southern Foods joined in to take it statewide, starting with Fire on the Dock in Wilmington, then Fire in the Triad in Greensboro and Fire in the Triangle in Raleigh. Along the way, it became a restaurant-based dining event, with diners getting to vote for the winners.
It’s not a quiet dinner, says Dosier: Expect video, music and hosting by Crippen.
“It’s like a night of entertainment. It’s very interactive.”
Here’s how it works: Up to three times a week, 16 sets of chefs pair off at Bonterra Restaurant, at 1829 Cleveland Ave. in Dilworth.
The chefs are told the ingredient at noon, then they have to come up with three courses using that ingredient. A truck parked outside is loaded with everything the chefs are allowed to use, and they even have to turn in their cellphones, so they can’t call for help.
The secret ingredient comes from North Carolina, but it can be anything from Cheerwine to pork. Once it was catfish – quite a challenge when it was time for dessert.
The diners get all six courses, then they judge the winner along with professional judges at every dinner who include culinary educators, chefs and food writers.
After narrowing it down through quarterfinals and semifinals, the winner will be declared Oct. 21. The Charlotte winner gets $2,000 and goes on to a final competition against the other winners Nov. 20-23 in Raleigh.
The other city competitions have already been held, including adding Asheville to the original Fire on the Rock.
The six-course dinners are $74.78, including tax and tip, until the semifinals and finals Oct. 15-21, when the price climbs to $87.46.
Charlotte’s 16 chefs were announced this week, and the final dinner, Oct. 21, is already sold out.
The whole thing is designed to bring attention to N.C. food and chefs.
“Our keywords are chefs, farmers and diners,” Dosier says. “Even the T-shirts are made from N.C. cotton.”
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