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

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