Raleigh, N.C. — Fire in the Triangle is moving into the second round this week. Let's get to know our second round chefs!
Dean Thompson, of Flights, will be competing Tuesday night against Chef Serge Falcoz-Vigne of 518 West.
In the first round, Thompson defeated Chef James Clark of The Carolina Inn in a battle with corn and grits as the secret ingredients.
Here's what Thompson had to say about round one and looking ahead to round two:
What surprised you most about Round One? Thoughts on your secret ingredient?
Dean: The surprise of Round One for me was just trying to get past the deer in head lights and blank I was coming up with for the first 30 minutes. You start working and ideas start coming to you. When we got the ingredient I was somewhat surprised. I thought it was going to be a little more sinister, but as soon as I saw corn I knew we would do well. The grits were just a complement to the corn and easy enough to incorporate. We did practice at one point with grits and how to manipulate them in order to change them into other things, other than just creamy or grit cakes. Basically we turned them into puree, or cornmeal, allowing us to utilize it in different ways without having to cook the "grittiness" out of them. If you eat something breaded in grits it is nearly so gritty it makes it inedible, but if you put them into a coffee grinder first you can get past that.
What secret ingredient in the first round did you most want to work with but didn't get?
Dean: Anything other than a protein because I think it gets to redundant. From the guests’ perspective, their aren’t to many people who want to eat a shrimp cupcake!
Going into the next round, what do you absolutely not want to see as a secret ingredient? Any great combos you'd like to see - i.e. donuts and coffee?
Dean: I am not to concerned about the ingredient. We have practiced and prepared for most anything. The team we have is great and able to navigate their way through tough situations. I’m not too sure about seeing shrimp or sturgeon. The shrimp has to be clean and when you have 125 people dining with 3 courses, you start to hate shrimp. Sturgeon just is weird, I personally would go out and order it. Hot dogs and hamburger meat would be fun I guess or maybe slim jims and Cheerwine, Pepsi, or Sundrop.
Do you know your competitor well? Any history of working together?
Dean: I don’t really know Chef Serge very well. We have had brief encounters. Based on his interviews and reputation he seems like he is a great chef and a better guy. He is always happy, and has a very creative thought process when it comes to his dishes. I think we have different styles, and flavor profiles that we like to work with.
What do you want to get out of this competition, besides winning?
Dean: I love the opportunity to work with our team (consisting of my favorite chef and my brother/best friend). It may sound a little selfish but I would like to get myself out into the community as well as the restaurant and I also feel like I’m representing all of the employees at the hotel. I think people have a misconception of most hotel restaurants, and the chefs that work in corporate food service. The public assumes we are a chain restaurant, with set menus and an emphasis on silly cocktails and chewy unrecognizable food. I think Flights has a great, hard-working staff that has the creative freedom and ability to really surprise and show our diners otherwise.
One thing you want to share with diners about you and your restaurant.
Dean: Our restaurant Flights is open to the public. We have a great menu, which we are actually in the process of changing right now. We utilize local products turning classic southern American dishes into modern edible art.