Raleigh, N.C. — It was a battle of two chef Thompsons on Friday night during the Got to Be NC Competition Dining Series semi-finals.
Chef Dean Thompson of Flights at Renaissance North Hills, and Chef Tim Thompson of Marisol in Greensboro faced off in this Iron Chef-style challenge with the winner getting a spot in the Final Fire Saturday night.
Out and About corresponded Hadassah Patterson was on-hand and has a full recap of Friday's battle:
I was at table with a great bunch! Wade Brown and Oba Goodson were from Pate Dawson Southern Foods. I also had a great time chatting with Amanda and Jonathan Hemingway, Jason Hemingway, Renee King, Ann and Matt Nelson, and Yelp’s Lauryn Caluntino. We had a blast!
La Farm in Cary got rave reviews for their artisan breads, as expected. Bombshell Brewing provided the beer, and their coconut stout was the belle of the ball. I had a chance to chat with Sanctuary Vineyard’s John Wright. They were featuring the Wildflowers wine, a Cabernet Franc varietal with lots of fresh fruit in the palate. He also raved about their Albarino. They’ve been producing in North Carolina for 12 years now.
The secret ingredients were: Windcrest Farms Organic Ginger, Islander Ginger Beer and Big Spoon Roasters Peanut Pecan Butter.
Per usual, each chef produced three dishes, an appetizer, entrée and dessert. Two of the three ingredients had to make it into each dish. They were judged based on a 40 point scale in the categories of presentation, aroma, flavor, execution, use of secret ingredient, creativity, and accompaniments.It was a blind tasting so diners didn't know which chef made each dish.
COURSE 1: Seared Scallop and Nueske’s Bacon-Wrapped Big Spoon Roasters Peanut Pecan Butter & Islander Ginger Beer Sausage, Ginger Beer Mushroom Sauce, Sous Vide Ginger Beer Sweet Potato, Citrus-Herb Cous Cous, Ginger Beer Cherry Jam, Peanut Dust - Chef Dean Thompson of Flights 25.920
This one really got the palate going and the crowd was excited. The flavors blended well together and both Chefs Gerry Fong and Chef Steven Goff had some positive things to say. Chef Fong stated, “I thought the flavor and the creativity were good.” Our table had clean plates. The peanut dust was downright interesting.
Course two saw some variations.
COURSE 2: Big Spoon Roasters Peanut Pecan Butter & Panko-Crusted Lamb with Goat Cheese Crème Fraîche Mousse, Islander Ginger Beer & Basil Vinaigrette, Pickled Windcrest Farms Ginger, Beet & Ginger Beer-Marinated Dry Apple Salad - Chef Tim Thompson of Marisol 24.421
We had mixed reviews in the crowd on this one. Some loved it and others felt less so. The variety of textures and colors was visually interesting. The texture of the lamb was a bit chewy. Chef Goff from King James Restaurant in Asheville noted, “The flavors were good on both courses. I think there was more flavor on the first course.” The prevailing opinion was there was that this was the case. Course one seemed to offer more variety.
Course 3 was a huge hit across the room and across the board from the crowd and the judges alike!
COURSE 3: Pepsi Soy Windcrest Farms Ginger Pork Belly with Big Spoon Roasters Peanut Pecan Butter Hoisin, Spicy Pumpkin & Gingered Peanut Pecan Butter Ravioli with Nueske’s Bacon Cream, Apple Fennel Slaw, Windcrest Farms Ginger Chip - Chef Dean Thompson of Flights 31.368
The aroma was wafting across the room and up close it was tantalizing. Jonathan Hemingway at our table exclaimed, “This is the best one so far!” I took off across the banquet room to see if the same sentiment was echoed. Diners at several tables used precisely the same words. The flavors blended so well together, there was so much variety on the plate, and it was phenomenal. There were several dishes over 30 points by the Joes tonight, but this one weighed in at over 30 with the Pros as well. At the end of the night, I checked in with Chef Sam Ratchford of Vidalia. He agreed. “Peanuts can be hard to work with. Course three was my favorite of the night.”
Talking with Jimmy Crippen between courses, with 175 diners in the room, it was quite an event, but they are certainly used to it by now! Statewide there have been 64 chefs participating with tonight being the 63 battle thus far. They have certainly gone along ways toward his goal of elevating and bringing attention to North Carolina chefs, products, and food!
Course 4 was great, but left some questions on the tip of the tongue. Personally I love a great braise and it’s hard to get me away from a good ginger beer!
COURSE 4: Islander Ginger Beer & Lemongrass-Braised Pork with Windcrest Farms Ginger Sweet Potato Purée, Peanut Cha! Veal Stock Reduction, Blueberry Ginger Beer Mint Gastrique - Chef Tim Thompson of Marisol 22.537
We were a little confused about the flavor in the pork. Amanda Hemingway was explaining the same thing I was thinking, “The sweet potatoes overpowered the flavor of the pork.” It was a wonderful, tender and succulent serving that was generously portioned. But there was very little ginger flavor in the pork. The sauces were good, and the sweet potatoes carried a large dose of piquant ginger, but it made the dish seemed a tad unbalanced. Still a great effort!
Course 5 was another wowzer!
This was the most decadent, delicious dessert I have experienced during the Fire battles so far, and I was not the only one impressed!
COURSE 5: Dark Chocolate and Big Spoon Roasters Peanut Pecan Butter Torte, Oreo, Peanut Pecan Islander Ginger Beer Cake, Mousse Two Times, Chocolate Ganache, Banana Peanut & Chocolate Ice Cream, Windcrest Farms Ginger Custard, Salted Caramel, Candied Peanuts - Chef Dean Thompson of Flights 29.100
Oh my goodness. The echoes of oohs and ahhs around the table were enough. Renee King and I couldn’t speak because our mouths were full, but she gave me the thumbs up. Oba Goodson and Wayne Brown both agreed and so did the entire room. The ice cream was reminiscent of ‘Moose Tracks’. The dessert was solid, with so many layers of flavor!
Course 6 was underwhelming. I don’t know what happened.
COURSE 6: Windcrest Farms Ginger Chocolate Truffle, Coconut Custard Ice Cream, Big Spoon Roasters Peanut Pecan Butter Cookie, Mango Islander Ginger Beer Coulis - Chef Tim Thompson of Marisol 18.760
It was sparse, there was little variety, and the flavors did not complement one another. I looked around the table and unfortunately it was unanimous.
As we waited for the results, I had ideas, but knew it could be anybody’s game. Oba Dawson was more confident. “I predict Flights is going to win…” and he gave a point range. He was close!
Chef Dean Thompson was happy, but measured in his response. The seasoned competitor took over and the Chef stated, with a note of intensity, that there was “still more work to do.” Congratulations to Chef Dean Thompson, Anthony Zanini, and Matt Thompson, and the folks at Flights for all their hard work this season! They will go on to challenge Chef John Fortes from Mimosa Grill in what is sure to be a blow out event at the Final Fire Saturday night!