What's on Tap

What's on Tap

Innovative chefs wow diners with brulee marshmallow crème, Cocoa Krispy truffles

Posted March 9
Updated March 10

Cooking for a Classic

— Chefs Troy Stauffer of City Club Raleigh and R.J. St. John of Bull McCabes competed on Tuesday in the final face off of the first round of Cooking For A Classic.

In this single-elimination, four-round competition, chefs from kitchens around the Triangle prove their culinary skills to an audience of hungry ticket-holders. Each chef is challenged to prepare a vegan or vegetarian appetizer, an entrée and a desert with accompanying drinks for each course. In “Chopped” fashion, they are only able to use the ingredients stocked in the pantry of the venue, 1705 Prime.

Diners have the opportunity to rate all six dishes based on taste, creativity, presentation, execution and cocktail or pairing. Some of the “judges” at my table were foodies or chefs themselves, while others were there simply to enjoy and support the cause.

Cooking For A Classic proceeds benefit the Lucy Daniels Center, an organization that strives to offer resources for families and children affected by emotional, mental and social challenges.

Voters don’t know which dish comes from which chef until the end but my tablemates, who were close with one of the competing chefs, had a pretty good idea from the start. R.J. St. John’s dishes usually had a bite and something unique. While, Stauffer focused on presentation and likability.

St. John’s “elite-style polenta” appetizer made with cotija cheese, chili powder and lime zest paired perfectly with the chili-lime rimmed Prosecco.

Cooking for a Classic

Stauffer, taking a lighter approach, offered a tangy poached pear with beet gel, goat cheese mousse and candied walnuts served with a smooth white wine.

Stauffer’s entrée displayed even more range than his appetizer. The pork rilletes dressed with cherry gastrique and topped with pomegranate and fingerling chips were juicy, crispy, salty and sweet all at once.

Cooking for a Classic

The consensus among diners at my table was that Stauffer’s entrée was plated more attractively than St. John’s. However, even now, I’m craving the scrumptious kick and extreme tenderness of his deconstructed broth poached back ribs.

Before dessert was served, a diner who had attended all seven nights commented that it was the best food so far. No one at my table had been every night but we agreed anyways. How could it get better than this?

What “glamping” is to camping, Stauffer’s brulee marshmallow crème was to s’mores. His rich, delectable dessert was composed of crumbly graham, chocolate cremeux and topped with white chocolate snow.

Cooking for a Classic

St. John’s Cocoa Krispy Truffles were easily the most unique dish served. Imagine round, chocolate Cocoa Krispy treats covered in chili-infused dark chocolate syrup. To top it off, he added “cereal milk” espuma (foam) to the TOPO Carolina Moonshine drink pairing.

In St. John’s words, “If you can mix moonshine with cereal you like, then do it!”

When the dishes were cleared and the votes were cast, it was Stauffer who came out on top.

When asked what inspired the dishes on his menu, Stauffer replied “ I wanted to make them approachable but flip them on their head a little bit.”

Stauffer, as well as the seven other winning chefs from the opening rounds, will move on to face off in the quarterfinals March 13-15. With each successive round, the price of the tickets and the food budgets allotted to the chefs goes up.

Tickets are still available for purchase at www.cookingforaclassic.com.

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