The Got to Be NCCompetition Dining Series, a tournament highlighting the best of the state’s food, agriculture and culinary talent, congratulates Chef Jon Fortes of Mimosa Grill in Charlotte on his victory in the statewide Final Fire championship. Fortes is one of 64 top chefs from across North Carolina who competed throughout the year, first taking home the regional title for the Queen City, and now earning the highest state honor.
Hosted Saturday, Nov. 22 at the Renaissance Hotel in Raleigh’s North Hills shopping center, Fortes won the championship battle in front of a sold out crowd, overcoming Chef Dean Thompson of Flights in Raleigh. The dinner included three secret ingredients: Apple Mill apple butter, Biltmore Winery Blanc de Blanc NV sparkling wine, and Atlantic Caviar and Sturgeon Company caviar. One of the crowd favorites of the night, and Fortes’ highest scoring dish of the battle, was the third course. Named “Duo of Carolina Pork,” the dish included Apple Mill apple butter pork rillette and Biltmore sparkling wine braised pork belly, goat cheese, andouille, leek and mushroom bread pudding, sparkling wine and apple butter squash sauce (see complete scores and dishes at www.competitiondining.com/results/mimosa-grill-v-flights).
“Coming into the statewide championship for my second time, the strategy was simple – to win,” said Fortes. “It was exhilarating to come out on top in our qualifying battle Thursday night and know our team had earned a spot in the championship event. Dean Thompson is a phenomenal chef and competitor, so it was clear that we needed to execute at a high level to be able to take home the title.”
The single-elimination culinary tournament included five regional competitions throughout 2014 with eight to 16 chefs competing in each market. Chefs competed in bracket-style tournaments in each market, with two chefs facing off per dinner battle with winners moving on to the next round of competition.
In each Got to Be NC Competition Dining Series dinner experience, the two competing chefs test their culinary talents preparing three courses centered on a secret or featured ingredient that comes from a North Carolina farmer or artisan producer. Featured ingredients are revealed to the chefs the morning of the dinner battle and must be used in every course. Community members in attendance get in on the action, savoring the combined six courses without knowing which chef prepared which plate. Alongside culinary and guest judges, diners rate each dish using an interactive app, ultimately determining who moves on to the next round and who goes home.
“After watching Jon Fortes compete in these events for the past two years, it was truly an honor to crown him as the 2014 Final Fire champion in front of more than 170 people,” said Jimmy Crippen, Competition Dining Series founder and host. “With outstanding culinary talent, passion for North Carolina’s food and agriculture and a natural competitive spirit, Fortes exemplifies everything this competition represents and is well deserving of the big win.”
As part of Chef Fortes’ 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.
The win is part of a busy year for Chef Fortes. He recently made the transition to cook alongside his wife as chefs and owners of a charming new farm-to-fork restaurant, The Flipside Café in Fort Mill, South Carolina. Fortes’ Competition Dining Series teammate, Thomas Marlow is now the executive chef at Mimosa Grill, so diners can visit both restaurants to taste culinary creations from the Final Fire championship team. The team’s alternating third members, DJ Ivey and Joe Cornett, are also both with Mimosa Grill.
Continued Fortes, “The Got to Be NC Competition Dining Series is an amazing experience for any chef, diner and farmer. Each year the level of talent from everyone involved exceeds expectations, and I look forward to seeing what’s to come in 2015!”
The 2015 Got to Be NC Competition Dining Series will kick off the New Year with the Triangle series in January, followed by Charlotte and then the Triad, which will be hosted in Winston-Salem for the first time. Tickets to the interactive dinner events are available now on the reservations page at www.competitiondining.com – just in time for holiday gift giving.
About The Got to Be NC Competition Dining Series
The Got to Be NC Competition Dining Series is sponsored by the NC Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services, Pate Dawson-Southern Foods, Certified Angus Beef®, Pepsi Bottling Ventures, the NC Wine & Grape Council, Hits Technology and local partners in each region of the state. The goal of the series is to celebrate local North Carolina products and agriculture, and to showcase the culinary ingenuity and talent across the state. For more information, visit www.competitiondining.com or get in on the conversation at www.facebook.com/competitiondining and @CompDiningNC on Twitter or Instagram.