by Madison V. Fisler
March 7, 2014. In early February, the Got to Be NC Competition Dining Series announced that Samuel Ratchford of Vidalia in Boone and Edwin Bloodworth of The Gamekeeper Restaurant and Bar in Boone were chosen from many applicants to compete in Fire on the Rock in Asheville.
The seven competitive dinners will be hosted at the Lioncrest at the Biltmore located at 1 Lodge Street in Asheville. Starting on March 10, chefs will compete to move forward in the competition, showing off their culinary creativity and skills, to reach the Finals on March 31.
The competition schedule is as follows:
- March 10: Vidalia, Boone (Samuel Ratchford) vs. Strada Italiano, Asheville (Anthony Cerrato)
- March 11: ISIS Restaurant and Music Hall, Asheville (Mike Mahoney) vs. Season’s at Highland Lake Inn & Resort, Flat Rock (Michelle Bailey)
- March 17: Gamekeeper Restaurant & Bar, Boone (Edwin Bloodworth) vs. Ambrozia Bar & Bistro, Asheville (Sam Etheridge)
- March 18: King James Public House, Asheville (Steven Goff) vs. Lexington Avenue Brewery, Asheville (Michael Fisera)
- March 24: Battle between winner of March 10 and March 11 (semifinals)
- March 25: Battle between winner of March 17 and March 18 (semifinals)
- March 31: Battle between winner of March 24 and March 25 (finals)
Samuel Ratchford of Vidalia in Boone is no stranger to the Fire on the Rock Competition Dining Series. Ratchford competed in the competition last year, missing out on the title by mere tenths of a point against Adam Hayes of Red Stag Grille in Asheville.
“I really like to have fun with cooking,” Ratchford said. “I don’t think I could ever sit behind a desk all day. There is a lot of freedom to cooking, and I love the people I have gotten to meet and work with. That’s my passion.”
Ratchford attended the New England Culinary Institute and has delighted Boone residents and visitors for years in his downtown restaurant, Vidalia.
Ratchford is taking some of his experience from last year’s competition into the fray on March 10.
“I learned to keep things simple and to really have fun with it,” Ratchford said. “It is very important to be versatile and quick, and to manage my time well. I am very excited to compete this year.”
Edwin Bloodworth of Gamekeeper in Boone is known for preparing out of the ordinary dishes from uncommon ingredients.
“My cooking style is very emotional,” Bloodworth said. “In my cooking I focus on Appalachian cuisine, which includes so many wild things that are available in the woods that many people just aren’t educated on. There are a lot of things that I like to utilize, there are so many delicious flavors right under our noses and I like to bring those flavors out. I grew up in this area with my grandmother in the garden, and I use a lot of modern techniques and try to incorporate my roots into the ingredients to make it something special.”
Bloodworth enjoys utilizing uncommon ingredients like goat and lamb, which have made the Gamekeeper restaurant famous.
“I feel like for the American dining public, everything is written out and there is no adventure. Everything is very safe and recognizable. I think dining should be mysterious, it should be an adventure and it can even be an educational experience,” Bloodworth said.
Bloodworth also thinks that he has a competitive edge over the competition due to the restaurant environment he is used to working in.
“Going into this competition, you are limited with what you have to work with,” Bloodworth said. “We are used to working under these conditions. That might be our biggest advantage going into our competition.
And in this competition, these local chefs take the culinary hopes of the High Country with them.