Friday, November 6, 2015

Raleigh Chef Ryan Conklin Wins Got to Be NC Competition Dining Series Annual Championship

The Got to Be NC Competition Dining Series, a single-elimination tournament highlighting the best of the Carolina’s food, agriculture and culinary talent applauds Chef Ryan Conklin of UNC REX Healthcare in Raleigh on his victory in the Battle of Champions. Conklin is one of 70 top chefs from across North and South Carolina who competed throughout the year, first taking home a regional win in the Triangle, and now earning the ultimate title.

Hosted Saturday, Oct. 31 at the Renaissance Hotel in Raleigh’s North Hills shopping center, Conklin won the championship battle in front of a sold out crowd, overcoming Chef Brent Martin of The Summit Room in Charlotte. The dinner included two featured ingredients: Jarrett Bay oysters and Outer Banks SeaSalt. Additionally, the chefs started their final battle day shopping. The two teams were each allotted $500 to spend at the Got to Be NC State Farmers Market and they had to use at least one local produce item in every course. 

“It was an exciting and long few days of back-to-back battles to get to the finale, which we knew would be the most challenging event of them all, ” said Chef Conklin. “We never expected a day full of shucking nearly 700 oysters, which definitely cut into our cooking time, but it was a true test of our team’s culinary talents and a perfect fit for competitive spirit of the tournament. I couldn’t be prouder that we came out on top, showing not just the Triangle, but both states that we’re more than just hospital food.”

One of the crowd favorites of the night, and Conklin’s highest scoring dish of the battle, was the second course. The dish included cornmeal fried Jarrett Bay oyster, slow roasted tomatoes, rosemary chimichurri, pan fried NC grouper, cauliflower puree, Outer Banks SeaSalt, black truffle, and sorrel and langoustine salad (see complete scores and dishes at www.competitiondining.com/results/rex-healthcare-vs-the-summit-room). 

“Chef Ryan Conklin consistently impressed diners with high-scoring dishes throughout his regional series and these championship events, pulling out unique flavor combinations and impeccable team execution in every battle,” said Jimmy Crippen, Competition Dining Series founder and host. “His passion for cooking and competitive drive is a perfect representation of this competition and his performance in the championship battle certainly earned him the big win. We are honored to call him our 2015 champion.” 

As part of Chef Conklin’s victory, he not only gets bragging rights, but also took home the grand prize of $4,000 cash, two handmade chef knives by Ironman Forge and a trip to the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in Napa Valley, California, compliments of Kikkoman and the Pro Chef Program.

Continued Conklin, “I felt confident about how the day went in large part to my two teammates, Chef Steve Pexton and Collin Jennings. Both chefs have been extremely instrumental in every battle, from our regional series to this championship. I wouldn’t be where I am in this competition without either of them.”

In every Competition Dining Series dinner throughout the year, two chef teams battle it out preparing three courses each centered on a featured regional ingredient that is revealed the morning of the event. Ticketed guests savor a full-service, six-course meal without knowing which chef prepared which dishes. Unlike any other cooking competition, attendees vote on each course using a free app, and ultimately help determine who moves on to the next battle round and who goes home. Learn more at www.competitiondining.com

About The Got to Be NC Competition Dining Series
The Got to Be NC Competition Dining Series has hosted annual chef tournaments throughout North Carolina for years with the goal of celebrating local products and agriculture, and showcasing the culinary ingenuity and talent across the state. It is sponsored by the NC Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services, Pate Dawson-Southern Foods, Certified Angus Beef®, Pepsi Bottling Ventures, ALSCO, NC Egg Association, Hits Technology and Joyce Farms. For the first time ever, Competition Dining expanded outside North Carolina in 2015 with a series in Greenville, South Carolina. For more information, visit www.competitiondining.com or get in on the conversation at www.facebook.com/competitiondining and @CompDiningNC on Twitter or Instagram.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Battle of Champions Guaranteed to Bring the Heat

Competition Dining is gearing up for its Battle of Champions series in which five top regional chefs will battle it out to take home the coveted annual championship title. Foodies from the Carolinas and beyond are invited to attend the four live dinner events Oct. 28 to 31 in Raleigh.

Tickets for the interactive dinner battles go on sale Thursday, Sept. 24 at 7 p.m. at www.competitiondining.com and are guaranteed to sell out quickly!

Catch up on the latest competition news here in the meantime:


Thursday, September 10, 2015

Competition Dining Series Greenville Winner & 2015 Battle of Champions Bracket Announced

The Competition Dining Series, a single-elimination tournament highlighting the best of the Carolina’s food, agriculture and culinary talent, has named a regional winner for the Greenville series. Chef Todd Warden of The Cliffs Valley in Greenville took home the title last night in the battle of pork and local produce after rising to the top of the 14-chef regional tournament that started Aug. 3.   

Chef Warden now moves on to the Got to Be NC Competition Dining Series Battle of Champions this October in Raleigh, North Carolina. He will compete against four other top chefs who each won regional tournaments, all in hopes of taking home the coveted annual championship title. Foodies from the Carolinas and beyond are invited to attend the four live dinner events Oct. 28 to 31, savoring the full-service, six-course meals and serving as judges. Tickets to these interactive battles go on sale Thursday, Sept. 24 at 7 p.m. at www.competitiondining.com and are guaranteed to sell out quickly.

The five chefs competing in the Battle of Champions randomly drew knives to determine the bracket, and the schedule is as follows:
  • Wednesday, Oct. 28: Ryan Conklin, Rex Healthcare (Raleigh, North Carolina) vs. Joseph Cornett, The Flipside CafĂ© (Fort Mill)
  • Thursday, Oct. 29: Richard Miller, Graze (Winston-Salem, North Carolina) vs. Oct. 28 winner
  • Friday, Oct. 30: Todd Warden, TheCliffs Valley (Greenville) vs. Brent Martin, The Summit Room (Charlotte, North Carolina)
  • Saturday, Oct. 31: Oct. 29 winner vs. Oct. 30 winner


Each of the Battle of Champions dinner events, just as at all dinners throughout the year-long series, includes two chef teams battling it out preparing three courses centered on a featured ingredient that comes from a regional farmer or artisan producer. Featured ingredients are revealed to the chefs the morning of the dinner event and must be used in each course.

“This is going to be an extremely competitive championship series,” said Jimmy Crippen, Competition Dining Series founder and host. “The level of culinary talent this year has exceeded all expectations and we’re confident the four Battle of Champions dinner events will be an impressive culmination of the fun and creativity we’ve seen and tasted throughout 2015.”

To earn his spot in the Battle of Champions, Chef Todd Warden had to defeat Chef Bo Wilder of Henry’s Smokehouse in the final Greenville competition. In front of a sold out crowd of more than 160 people, the event pitted the chefs against each other with featured ingredient, Greenbrier Farms​ pork loins and jowls. Also, for the first time in competition history, the chefs started their final battle day shopping. The two teams were each allotted $300 to spend at Swamp Rabbit Cafe and Grocery and they had to use at least one local produce item in every course. Both chefs came within cents of their budget at checkout.

At the end of the night, the highest scoring dish of the battle was Warden’s first course, which included braised Greenbrier Farms pork jowl, ricotta gnocchi, roasted organic brussels sprouts, caramelized Hopkins Farm candy roaster squash, sage brown butter and The Happy Berry muscadine gastrique. (See complete scores and dishes here.)

“I didn’t get much sleep the night before our final battle, so it ended up being a long day of running on almost nothing but adrenaline,” said Chef Warden. “A big highlight of my night was when I dedicated our big win to my father, who passed away earlier this year. Although he couldn’t be there, I know he was cheering me on in spirit at every battle, especially last night!”

As part of his regional championship winnings, Warden’s team – which includes chefs Kevin Furmanek and Scott Denomme – took home a $2,000 cash prize, a handmade chef knife by Ironman Forge and the coveted “Red Chef Jacket” provided by ALSCO.

As they move on to the Battle of Champions, the five chef teams will all compete for bragging rights, a grand prize of $4,000 cash, two handmade chef knives by Ironman Forge and a trip to the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in Napa Valley, California, compliments of Kikkoman and the Pro Chef Program. All Battle of Champions events are held at Renaissance NorthHills Raleigh, located at 4100 Main at North Hills Street. Tickets to attend the first three battles are $129 each excluding beverage, tax and service fee. Tickets for the final championship battle are $149 each excluding beverage, tax and service fee. Learn more and buy tickets starting Thursday, Sept. 24 at 7 p.m. via www.competitiondining.com.

About Competition Dining Series

The Got to Be NC Competition Dining Series has hosted annual chef tournaments throughout North Carolina for years with the goal of celebrating local products and agriculture, and showcasing the culinary ingenuity and talent across the state. It is sponsored by the NC Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services, Pate Dawson-Southern Foods, Certified Angus Beef®, Pepsi Bottling Ventures, ALSCO, NC Egg Association, Hits Technology and Joyce Farms. For the first time ever, Competition Dining expanded outside North Carolina in 2015 with a series in Greenville, South Carolina. For more information, visit www.competitiondining.com or get in on the conversation at www.facebook.com/competitiondining and @CompDiningNC on Twitter or Instagram.