Winston-Salem, N.C. — Chef John Bobby of Noble's Grille in Winston-Salem made his Competition Dining debut in 2012 during Battle Rabbit and failed to advance, but he took the Triad by storm in 2013 by soundly whipping his competition and moving on to Final Fire to face John Mimosa of Mimosa Grill in Charlotte on Nov. 20. Ironically, both chefs reside in the Charlotte area.
During Fire in the Triad, Chef Bobby put out beautiful, composed plates with dishes such as Peppercorn Crusted Ostrich Filet, a Barley-Agrodolce Salad and Pork Sugo with Spinach Tajarin, but the real stars of each competition night were the desserts that his teammate and wife, Lucia, constructed. After speaking with him, it is apparent that his roots are as humble as they come.
When did you start cooking?
I've always been around the restaurant business. My dad owned a restaurant in Kernersville called The Lazy Cajun, and I'd wash dishes, do whatever needed to be done.
How did you get your start?
I met my wife, Lucia, when we worked at Wal-Mart. One day she said, "I'm going to culinary school," and I said, "Let's go," and we stayed in Florida for 8 years. We both worked at the Ravenous Pig in Winter Park, Florida. I learned about local food, using local product and farm to table cuisine. It broadened my perspective.
How did you find your way back to North Carolina?
Well, I'm from Kernersville and Lucia is from King and we wanted to live closer to home but not too close, so we chose Charlotte. I started at Rooster's at the South Park location. A position opened up and it was either sous chef in Charlotte or executive chef in Winston-Salem. I chose Winston.
What made you decide to compete? Did you think you'd make it this far?
Because I live in Charlotte and work in Winston, it's hard to meet other chefs. I thought it would be a good idea to meet others and make connections. We didn't make it very far last year, but this year, we were all over it. We planned a little bit more, decided to take a bit more risk. I hope we make it all the way to the end. We are looking forward to spending some time in Chapel Hill and Raleigh and eating at The Stanbury.
If Bobby wins on Wednesday, Nov. 20, he will advance to the next round and compete against Fire in the Triangle winner Chef Dean Thompson of Flights the next day.
Final Fire is the culmination of six regional dining competitions. The format is the same: each chef prepares three dishes using one or more secret ingredients then diners and professional judges vote without knowing who made what. The winning chef moves to the final round.
All rounds are sold out, but Out and About is the official blogger so check back for complete coverage of each round.