Last Tuesday marked the conclusion of the first round in the WNC Chefs Challenge, when Brian Ross of DOUGH won out over Executive Chef Michael Marshall of Harrah’s Cherokee Resort. It was a delicious heat, which featured local porters, IPAs, stouts and ales in each and every dish. Yes, the night’s secret ingredient was beer.
In fact, looking back on the first eight challenges, there have been some great secret ingredients in this year’s fourth annual challenge, including chocolate from French Broad Chocolates, eggs from Hickory Nut Gap Farm, sorghum from Owen Balls’ Madison County farm, and sweet potatoes from New Sprout Farms. Flour was also a first this year, used in the very first battle (Sunny Point Café vs. Tomato Jam Café).
And the talented chefs, who are allowed merely one hour to craft their menus for the evening, have concocted some impeccably beautiful and palate-pleasing creations you won’t find elsewhere. A few mouthwatering highlights: filo-baked lobster quiche with fennel, bacon, and sundried tomato hollandaise (LAB); aromatic spice and wine-braised chicken with apple chutney, couscous, and celeriac malanga root puree (Strada); chocolate gnocchi with a chocolate cream sauce, basil-chocolate ice cream, and raspberry meringue (Zambra).
If you haven’t been following the food fight or attended a dinner, where you get to dine and decide who wins, there’s still time. The quarterfinal round takes place every Tuesday at Chestnut restaurant in downtown Asheville, April 16-May 7, 6 p.m. Here’s who’s up on deck:
April 16 Tomato Jam Café vs. DoubleTree Catering
April 23 Lexington Avenue Brewery vs. Zambra
April 30 Deerfield vs. Strada Italiano
May 7 West Asheville Kitchen & Lounge (WALK) vs. DOUGH
Stay tuned for details on the semifinals. The final round will be held during the Asheville Wine & Food Festival, August 22-24. For Chefs Challenge tickets ($49, excluding tax and gratuity), dinner recaps, and photos, visit www.ashevillewineandfood.com.