Quarterfinals for Fire on the Rock

Article Published: Mar. 8, 2012 | Modified: Mar. 8, 2012
Quarterfinals for Fire on the Rock

Chef Guy Thomas of Glidewell’s congratulates Chef Jessica Grogan of Crave on a match well played. Thomas won Tuesday night’s Fire on the Rock competition.

Photo by Amanda Lugenbell

The Fire on the Rock Chefs Challenge entered its quarterfinal, or final eight, round this week.

The competition dining series event, now in its seventh year, takes place each Tuesday and Wednesday evening at Crippen’s Country Inn and Restaurant in Blowing Rock.

This year, it is sponsored by Southern Foods and the N.C. Department of Agriculture. As part of the “Must Be NC” campaign, it utilizes produce, fish and livestock grown in North Carolina each evening as its secret ingredient.

On Tuesday, Chef Jessica Grogan of Crave and her team faced Chef Guy Thomas of Glidewell’s and his team in a battle where the secret ingredient was mustard: Not just any mustard, of course, but gourmet mustard from the Lusty Monk Mustard Company of Asheville.

Grogan’s three dishes included a corn, bacon and potato chowder with crabmeat and ground mustard wonton; five-spice and mustard-rubbed duck with a parsnip and sweet potato puree and broccolini; and a spicy mustard and chocolate truffle with pomegranate sorbet and mustard caramel.

Thomas countered with mustard-glazed shrimp with grits, mustard collards and pan-fried cornbread; Andouille and mustard-stuffed pork tenderloin with herb salad, golden beets and mustard demi; and honey mustard apple ice cream with honey mustard brown sugar bacon crisp and shortbread.

In one of the closest matches of the 2012 Fire on the Rock Chefs Challenge, Thomas defeated Grogan by an average dish score of 68.0 percent to 65.7 percent.

Thomas and his team will move on to the competition’s final four round and face the winner of the Monte Weber of Painted Fish Café/Sam Ratchford of Vidalia match on March 20.

Battle Pork

On Wednesday evening at Crippen’s, Chef Gina Paolucci of Paolucci’s Italian Bar and Grill faced Chef James Welch of the Laurel Room of the Green Park Inn in a Fire on the Rock battle, featuring the secret ingredient of premium pork from Heritage Farms of Seven Springs.

Paolucci’s three dishes included pork sausage with poached egg, bacon biscuit with tart cherry goat cheese spread and maple fruit sauce; Thai curry braised pork with Chinese black rice, cilantro and crushed peanuts; and grilled pork medallion with tomato red pepper sauce and roasted potatoes with red and golden beets.

Welch countered with dishes that included chipotle honey-glazed ham top round, polenta cake, honey ham broth, pork rind and fried tortillas; Provencale herb, mustard and fennel seed-marinated and grilled ham with wild mushroom risotto, ham cream sauce, roasted pepper puree and ham beignet; and candied ham and pine nut cookie with ham lingonberry ice cream and sweet orange supremes.
Welch and his team earned an average dish score of 64.9 percent, defeating Paolucci’s team, which earned an average diner score of 52.6 percent.

Welch will face the winner of the March 14 Fire on the Rock battle between Chef Michael Foreman of Bistro Roca and Chef Andrew Long of Storie Street Grille. That final four match will take place on Wednesday, March 21, at Crippen’s.

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