By Paul T. Choate
April 12, 2012. BLOWING ROCK – Chef Michael Foreman slipped on the prestigious red jacket as the champion of the seventh annual “Fire on the Rock” cooking competition on Wednesday, April 11.
Foreman, of Bistro Roca, defeated chef Guy Thomas, of Glidewell’s, by a final score of 71.7 to 64.5.
The championship match was held at Crippen’s Country Inn and Restaurant, co-sponsor and founding establishment of the event, in Blowing Rock. Though preliminary matchups have been held at Crippen’s in the past, this is the first time the championship match was hosted there. In previous years the Hayes Performing Arts Center hosted the championship as a stage show.
According to Jimmy Crippen, owner of Crippen’s, patrons had always been able to eat the food in the preliminary rounds, but only a select panel of judges got to eat the courses prepared in the championship match.
“The stage show is no longer. We used to finish it off with a stage show, but the preliminaries were so popular,” said Crippen. “People don’t want to watch a stage show, they want to eat the food.”
The competition had a turnout of approximately 110 people, and the customer voters’ scores made up 70 percent of the total score. A handful of professional judges made up the remaining 30 percent.
Crippen said hosting the championship at his restaurant was “definitely the way to go,” and said he plans to host it next year as well.
Foreman’s victory netted him a check for $2,500, a trophy forged by Blowing Rock metalsmith Gaines Kiker and the prestigious red jacket signifying him as the 2012 champion. His assistants, Seth Parker and Scott Phan, also received red championship jackets.
The competition doubled as a fire safety education course. Kent Graham, fire marshal of the Blowing Rock Fire Department, spoke on the dangers of kitchen fires and said they are the number one cause of home fires. He further stressed the importance of using proper safety precautions in the kitchen.
In all, 16 area chefs from the following establishments participated in the competition: 1861 Farmhouse, Bistro Roca, Café Portofino, Chetola, Crave, Crestwood, Gideon Ridge, Glidewell’s, Green Park Inn, Hearthstone, Jackalope’s, Painted Fish, Paolucci’s, Storie Street, Vidalia and Westglow.
This year, for the first time, “Fire on the Rock” is only one installment of the larger Competitve Dining Series that will also feature “Fire on the Dock” in Wrightsville Beach, “Fire in the Triangle” in Raleigh and “Fire in the Triad” in Greensboro.
“Fire on the Rock” was sponsored by Crippen’s Country Inn and Restaurant in partnership with the Pate Dawson Company (PDC), Whole Harvest Foods, Southern Foods, Got To Be NC Products by the NC Department of Agriculture, Our State magazine, the North Carolina Department of Insurance Office of the State Fire Marshall and h.ITs Solutions.
For more information on the Competitive Dining Series, visit competitiondining.com.
For the full results and scores of “Fire on the Rock,” visit competitiondining.com/events/fire-on-the-rock.
Video by Ken Ketchie