Raleigh, N.C. — Over the course of six weeks and 15 competitions, 16 Triangle area chefs vied for the chance to drive away in the restored 1969 Corvette Stingray, the "classic" of the Cooking for a Classic competition.
At each event, two chefs prepared three dishes apiece – an appetizer, an entree and a dessert – and submitted them for blind tasting to a room full of hungry patrons whose ticket price went to benefit the Lucy Daniels Center in Cary.
The four-round bracket, a very sweet 16, raised more than $80,000 for the center, which provides family, health and education programs to children with mental or behavioral issues.
On Monday night, after the culminating competition, Chef Rich Carter of Catering Works in Raleigh, drove off with the prize.
Carter and his final-round foe, Troy Stauffer of City Club Raleigh, served up surprises and delights to a packed house at 1705 Prime.
Stauffer started the bidding with a tomato consomme that confused diners a bit in its color and combinations.
Some struggled to taste the tomato. One diner described it as a little too sweet.
Carter countered with a beet cous cous, a second very colorful dish. After the competition, he said the color of the beets – both red and white – played a role in his plan.
Stauffer said he "pushed the budget" for his entree of prime, natural beef prepared two ways. The rich, salty gravy had many reaching for bread to soak up every drop.
"This is almost rare," one diner said of the tender beef.
Carter, too, put the emphasis on tenderness. His twist on surf and turf featured a seared filet and scallops where both meats had the same delicate, melt-in-the-mouth doneness.
Stauffer scored twice with his dessert, pairing a Black Cow – root beer, chocolate, vanilla ice cream and whiskey – with a banana macadamia cake.
"This is what I would make if I was hanging out with Elvis at 3 a.m.," Stauffer said of his moist flavor combination.
Carter answered with a volcanic hot chocolate cake too rich for many to finish.
"You gotta go with chocolate and champagne," Carter said, nodding to his prosecco and hibiscus cocktail pairing. "What a way to end it."
And the diners agreed. They voted Carter the winner, then followed him outseide to hear him rev the engine on his prize.