Wilmington among stops for statewide chef cook-off

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Top-notch chefs across the state and right here in Wilmington will test their culinary skills during this year’s cooking competition, coming to the Port City in mid-September. Courtesy photo.

Plans are heating up for a statewide Iron Chef-style challenge heading to the Port City this fall.

Wilmington is among the list of six locations announced earlier this week for the 2016 Got to Be NC Competition Dining Series, which has also unveiled a new “dream team” concept for the intensive cook-off.

And it’s the last city on the series tour, which kicks off in Durham in mid-April, before heading to Winston-Salem and Greensboro in May and June, respectively. Two brackets will be held in both Raleigh and Charlotte in late summer, and the event winds down here in Wilmington Sept. 19, 20 and 22. It all culminates in October with naming of a statewide victor.

Dubbed locally as Fire on the Dock, the traveling challenge pits two restaurants against each other side-by-side in a single-elimination format. Paying guests get in on the action, as well, savoring a six-course menu in a blind tasting alongside a panel of culinary and celebrity judges. Featured ingredients, which come from a North Carolina farmer or artisan producer, are revealed to competing chefs just one hour before they begin to cook.

Showcasing regional farm-fresh goods is the driving force behind Got to Be NC, which is sponsored by the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Pate Dawson-Southern Foods, Certified Angus Beef and other partners throughout the state.

Over the last two years, it has drawn fellow buying-local supporters like James Doss, chef at Rx and Pembroke’s, Yosake’s Josh Woo and Josh Petty, formerly of Sweet n’ Savory who is set to open his Ogden restaurant, Cast Iron Kitchen, next month.

Applications are now being accepted online for chefs interested in testing their chops and, for the first time, contestants will be able to pull their peers from other restaurants to create three-person all-star teams.

“We’re excited to introduce this new dream team concept that will further showcase the immense culinary talent and agriculture in North Carolina,” competition founder and host Jimmy Crippen said. “Our mission is to connect and celebrate with foodies across the state through this dynamic, entertaining culinary experience.”

The six winners from each city will move on to compete in the Battle of Champions in October. Since Raleigh and Charlotte teams must battle it out twice for local title, these chefs will receive a bye for the first round of the championship.

Tickets to attend the interactive dinner face-off run between approximately $60 and $70 but won’t go on sale here in Wilmington until the local bracket is announced. Since tickets have typically sold out quickly, interested eaters can keep up to date on Got to Be NC news and updates by signing up for a newsletter through the event website.