Sunday, November 18, 2012

Triangle Chef Ryan Payne from Weathervane Wins Got To Be NC Competition Dining Series Final Fire Battle of the Champions

Raleigh, N.C. (Nov. 18) After a year of 15-dinner competition dining events in Blowing Rock, Wilmington, the Triangle and the Triad, the Final Fire regional showdown began Thursday night; Michael Foreman from Bistro Roca in Blowing Rock bested Triad champion George Neal of 1618 Seafood Grille. Ryan Payne emerged victorious in the Friday night battle with Fire on the Dock champion Andy Hopper from Chefs 105 in Morehead City.

In the most competitive and highest scoring battle of the year, Chef Ryan Payne’s Weathervane Restaurant Team from A Southern Season in Chapel Hill edged out Blowing Rock’s Bistro Roca team led by Chef Michael Foreman.

At each series battle, chefs are required to use one (or two) featured NC products in each of their courses. Last night's featured products included Heritage Farms Pork from Seven Springs; the chefs were told to specifically use pork jowls and cushion cuts. The second ingredient was Pepsi, the soft drink developed in New Bern by a local pharmacist in 1898. Each chef team prepared three courses each using both featured products for 160 diners in a sold-out ballroom at the Renaissance Raleigh North Hills Hotel.

Payne’s highest scoring dish of the evening was dessert: Pork Fat Funnel Cake, Buttermilk Cake, Pepsi-Apple Ice Cream, Candied Pork Jowl, Cherry Pepsi Syrup. His "very pregnant" pastry chef Vanessa Haydocka, engineered the dish for the team.

Michael Foreman earned the highest score of the evening with a nod to his time spent in the Southwest: House-Made Jowl Pancetta Risotto with Taos-Style Braised Pork Cushion, Dos Equis Beer-Pepsi Jus & Pine Nut-Cumin Pistou.

Culinary pro judges for the evening included CNN Eatocracy Blog Managing Editor Kit Kinsman; Evan Nash of Johnson & Wales in Charlotte; Scott Craig of Charlotte, one of six Americans to win a Gold Medal at the International Culinary Olympics in Germany in Oct.; Dathan Kuzsak, food blogger and design editor at the Triangle Business Journal; and Daniel Benjamin, pastry chef at Herons at the Umstead Hotel & Spa in Cary. Culinary pro scores counted 70 percent for the evening. The audience scores counted 30 percent.
Weathervane Team with's Eatocracy blog managing editor, Kat Kinsman

A $4000 check was presented to Payne by Mac Sullivan, chief executive officer of Southern Foods-Pate Dawson and Jimmy Crippen, host and founder from Crippen’s Country Inn & Restaurant in Blowing Rock. Foreman’s team received a $1000 check. Ironman Forge in Charlotte presented unique, handmade knife sets to both teams.

For scores and complete details of last night’s food NC food extravaganza, visit Facebook at or


This is the first year for Got To Be NC Competition Dining as a statewide competition. Since January, 64 chefs have competed in four regional competitions and served more than 6000 diners. Last night’s event was the finale of the 2012 competition designed to engage the farmer, the chef and the diner in an exciting evening of food and entertainment with the goal of the promoting North Carolina chef talent and the use of local ingredients.

Fire on the Rock kicked off in Blowing Rock in Jan. 2012. Next, Fire on the Dock launched in Wilmington. Summer brought Fire in the Triangle to Raleigh. In Aug. and Sept, Fire in the Triad landed in Greensboro. Next year, the event plans to expand into Charlotte and include Asheville in its Western NC series.

The event would not have been possible without statewide sponsors: The North Carolina Department of Agriculture, Southern Foods/Pate Dawson, OUR STATE, Crippen’s Country Inn & Restaurant in Blowing Rock, Whole Harvest Foods and h.ITS Technology. The Office of the State Fire Marshal in North Carolina provides information at each dinner as cooking accidents are the number one cause of home fires.


Media Contact: Susan Dosier,, 704.993.7871 mobile

Friday, November 16, 2012

Payne Tops Hopper; Neal Bows To Foreman

Thursday and Friday night saw semi-final battles with four regional champions; pumpkin and sweet potatoes took center stage as the featured North Carolina ingredients.

Raleigh, N.C. (Nov. 16, 2012) After two nights of intense culinary competition at the Renaissance Raleigh North Hills, two chefs have emerged from the field of four regional champions. Michael Foreman from Bistro Roca in Blowing Rock and Ryan Payne from Weathervane at Southern Season in Chapel Hill will face off in the Saturday night final battle for bragging rights, $4000 grand prize and a handmade knife set from Ironman Forge in Charlotte. Foreman won the Fire on the Rock series held in Jan. and Feb.; Payne earned Fire in the Triangle title this summer.

On Thursday night, veteran competitor Michael Foreman edged out Fire in the Triad Champion George Neal of 1618 Seafood Grille in Greensboro by only one point in Battle Pumpkin. Neal’s top dish of the evening was Blackened Beef Chuck over Sweet Potato-Pumpkin-Bacon Cake with Bourdelaise, Spicy Pumpkin and Lump Crab Mousse and Pumpkin Oil. Foreman’s highest-rated plate was dessert: Spiced Pumpkin Cake Layered with Praline Pastry Crème, Orange-Almond Tuile, Cream-Cheese Ice Cream, with Cheerwine and Tart Cherry Coulis. Images and details from this battle here:

Culinary pro judges for the night included Our State Magazine Editor Elizabeth Hudson; Durham Foodie Blogger Johanna Kramer; WRAL Out and About Managing Editor Kathy Hanrahan; Chef Joseph Brown, Dean of the Culinary School at the Art Institute in Durham; Chef Eric Gephart, Chef Instructor at Chef¹s Academy in Morrisville. Kitty Kinnin, radio personality and host of “Sunday Brunch” on 100.7 The River was a special guest on both Thursday and Friday.

On Friday night, Triangle talent Ryan Payne topped coastal young gun and Fire on the Dock Andy Hopper of Chefs 105 in Morehead City in Battle Sweet Potatoes. Hopper’s top dish of the evening was Balsamic-Braised Pistachio-Dusted Brisket, Creamy Sweet Potato Puree, Roasted Root Vegetables, Braised Collards and Red Currant Veal Sauce with a sprinkling of Purple Potato Powder. Payne’s top dish was also the highest scoring combo of the evening: Sweet Potato-Glazed Pork Belly, Braised Collards, Purple Sweet Potato Grits and Duck-Fat Sweet Potatoes. Images and more on this battle here:

Culinary pro judges for the night included nationally recognized travel and food writer/ author Diane Daniel; NikSnacks Blogger Nikki Miller-Ka; Chef Jim Noble, owner of multiple restaurant concepts in Charlotte and the Triad, including Rooster’s, The King’s Kitchen, and Noble’s Grille; Chef Geoff Gardner, Director of Food and Beverage at the Biltmore in Asheville; and Michael Moore, founder of the Blind Pig and Sous Chef at the Admiral in Asheville.

Saturday night’s secret ingredient will be revealed to chefs Foreman and Payne at 10 am on Saturday morning at the Renaissance North Hills Ballroom A. The chefs will be cooking for a sold out house as they have each night of the Final Fire competition. Tickets for tonight’s final sold out in 20 minutes when tickets were released online last month. In a fresh twist at the finals, the competition is weighting the culinary judge scores at 70 percent and the public scores at 30 percent. In all previous competitions, the reverse has been true.

Follow the event live on Twitter: #CompDiningNC

Amping Up the Finals: Culinary Pro Judge Scores Count 70 Percent; Audience Scores Will Count 30

Got To Be NC Competition Dining announced a change in their judging strategy for the finals this week. Last night, tonight and tomorrow, culinary pro judges’ combined scores will be weighted at 70 percent. The public’s combined scores will be weighted at 30 percent.

“This keeps our competitors on their toes,” said founder and host Jimmy Crippen. Crippen had used the same strategy in the finals during past years for Fire on the Rock, the first competition Crippen hosted in Blowing Rock, NC. With the statewide competition in its first year, Got To Be NC Competition Dining agreed the change would provide yet another twist for the chef finalists.

“It also keeps things fair. Now with five culinary pros coming from diverse backgrounds and different parts of the state, no one can unduly influence the scores.”

The public vote will still be just as critical as it has always been to the contest. Diners and judges will be using the app designed by h.ITS to enter their scores on smart phones for each course.