The Heat Goes On

Article Published: Mar. 4, 2010 | Modified: Sep. 7, 2011
The Heat Goes On

Another week goes by, and another two chefs are eliminated from the 2010 Fire on the Rock Chef Challenge in Blowing Rock.

It doesn't always turn out the way the individual chefs would have liked, but up to a now they have all said that the competition has been fair.

Thus far, eight chefs and their teams have been eliminated during the preliminary rounds of Fire on the Rock. All of the teams are hoping to survive the preliminary rounds and make it to the "Final four," with the final competition to be held during the Blue Ridge Food and Wine Festival in Blowing Rock in mid-April.

Each preliminary round, held each Tuesday and Wednesday evening at Crippen's Country Inn and Restaurant in Blowing Rock, has consisted of two chef teams competing against each other in a head-to-head duel.

At high noon on the day of the competition, each team sits down at a table in Crippen's dining room and goes over the rules with chef ref Doug Riess. Riess also confiscates all of the chef teams' cell phones, so that no one can have access to help from the outside world.

When both teams understand the rules, Crippen's owner and Fire on the Rock host Jimmy Crippen unveils the secret ingredient. Each of the dishes created for the six-course dinner will have to utilize the secret ingredient to some degree.

On Tuesday of last week, chef Skipper Clyburn of Glidewell's on Main and chef Ronald Dhing of Makoto's Japanese Seafood and Steakhouse listened intently as Crippen told them the secret ingredient would be "onions!"

But the competition would not just include regular onions, but instead the entire onion family, including Vidalia onions, red onions, Spanish onions, shallots, leeks, scallions and white pearl onions.

Glidewell's defeated Makoto's in that heat, leading the way for Storie Street Grille to defeat Casa Rustica in the "Battle of the Beets," with Storie Street's chef Andrew Long grabbing the high score with a seared scallop with beet slaw and bull's-eye beet chips.

Glidewell's and Storie Street will face off in the Battle of Main Street on March 23.

On Tuesday, March 2, chef Joe Turner of Hearthstone Tavern and Grille in Banner Elk fell to chef Sam Ratchford of Vidalia in Boone in "Battle Honey," with Ratchford's wildflower honey ice cream earning the most points.

On Wednesday, March 3, the Table at Crestwood faced off against The Gamekeeper, though results were unavailable as of press time.

Each team is allowed to bring its own chef implements and $100 worth of special spices or ingredients. The rest of the ingredients will have to come from the predetermined Fire on the Rock supplies list.

After quick strategy meetings in opposite ends of Crippen's, both teams rush into the kitchen and dive into their work.

At 4:30 p.m., both chefs emerge from the kitchen and hand in their proposed menu to Crippen. He will then decide an order to present the dishes to the diners and type up a menu in his own words.

By 6 p.m., guests are showing up to take their seats at Crippen's. Both chef teams are forbidden to leave the kitchen at this time, so there is no way that any diner can find out whose dish is whose.

At 6:30 p.m., host Crippen explains to the diners the rules of the competition and their role in it. Six courses will be brought to the tables, one at a time. Each diner will fill out a scorecard, rating each creation for appearance, aroma, taste and use of the secret ingredient.

The preliminary round dinners usually last around two hours as the six dishes are presented.

That gives the guests ample time for socializing and filling out the scorecards. After the six courses are finished, both chef teams are brought into the dining room and a winner is announced.

The teams competing in the preliminary rounds of the 2010 Fire on the Rock Chef Challenge are playing for more than just a chance to compete in the Final Four during the Blue Ridge Food and Wine Festival. Each preliminary round winner receives a $500 check on behalf of Crippen's.

After the winning team is announced, diners and chefs socialize for a little Q&A in Crippen's bar.

Attendance for the preliminary rounds of the Fire on the Rock competition at Crippen's has been outstanding. Despite fierce winter weather, the competitors had plenty of judges the first two weeks and during the third week of competition this past week, the dining room was sold out both evenings.

As in all competitions, not everyone can be the winner. So far this month, the Fire on the Rock competition has said "goodbye" to chef teams from Canyons, the Manor House at Chetola, Paolucci's Italian Bar and Grill, The Louisiana Purchase, Makoto's, Casa Rustica and Hearthstone Tavern and Grille.

The schedule for the remaining preliminary rounds of the Fire on the Rock Chef Challenge is as follows:

March 9: Jackalope's View at Archer's Inn vs. Char.
March 10: Sorrento's Bistro vs. Hound Ears Lodge & Club.
March 16: Twenty-One and Main vs. Rowland's at Westglow Resort.
March 17: Bistro Roca Restaurant vs. Grandfather Country Club.
March 23: Glidewell's on Main vs. Storie Street Grille.
March 24: Quarterfinal heat.
March 30: Quarterfinal heat.
March 31: Quarterfinal heat.

The finals of the Fire on the Rock Chef Challenge will take place during the Blue Ridge Wine and Food Festival in Blowing Rock April 15-18.

The cost of attending one of the Fire on the Rock preliminary rounds at Crippen's Country Inn and Restaurant is $39 per person, excluding beverage, tax and gratuity. To make reservations, call Crippens at (828) 295-3487.

Beat It
Got restaurant news? E-mail editor Frank Ruggiero at ( , snail mail Mountain Times Publications, Attn: Frank Ruggiero, 474 Industrial Park Drive, Boone, N.C. 28607, or call (828) 264-NEWS and ask for Frank.

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