Raleigh, N.C. — Flights' Dean Thompson has navigated such secret ingredients as caviar and mozzarella. The Fire in the Triangle champion defeated a talented field of chefs to earn a spot in next week's Final Fire round of the Competition Dining Series.
Final Fire is the culmination of a statewide dining competition that saw chefs from Asheville, Wilmington, the Triad, the Triangle and Charlotte face off in regional battles. 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.
Thompson and his team – consisting of his brother The State Club's executive chef Matt Thompson and Flights sous executive sous chef Anthony Zinani– will compete on Thursday, Nov. 21, against the winner of the first night - either Team Mimosa Grill or Noble's Grille.
All Final Fire rounds are being held in North Hills' Renaissance hotel (home of Flights), meaning Thompson and his team will be working in their usual kitchen.
"I don't think it gives me that much of an advantage, because the competitor that will be competing against me will have battled the night prior," Thompson said. "Our kitchen is very straight forward and the equipment all works well. I've taken video of the kitchen and the plate-ware and forwarded it to the competitors so that all of them know what they're walking into. I know that this is going to be very challenging and don't look at it as though I have any advantages."
Teams drew knives to determine the match-ups. With an odd number of teams competing, Flights was the only team to earn a first-round "bye" meaning they only need to prepare for a possible two competitions next week.
"We don't have a pastry chef so I know that we only need to practice desserts for two events versus three. I don't think anyone wanted to battle three times in such a talented field, but if I was going on Friday I would be just as thrilled," Thompson said.
In addition to preparing for potential secret ingredients, Thompson has also gotten to know his fellow chefs.
"I have studied all of their previous battles pretty intensely. I need to know what they're strong at and what they will struggle with. They are all very talented, but some are really strong in certain areas," he said.
If Thompson wins on Thursday, he will compete for the Final Fire title on Saturday.
All rounds are sold out, but Out and About is the official blogger so check back for complete coverage of each round.