Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Changes to Competition Dining

Competition Dining- Fire on the Rock, Fire on the Dock, Fire in the Triad, Fire in the Triangle, Fire in the City- is underway again for this season. I have attended two Fire in the Triad events as a Pro Judge so far this year, and will be attending others. I was pleased to see a change in the format this year. In previous years, if the secret ingredient turned out to be a protein (e.g., meat, fish), diners were likely to get two very good courses and one that was not so good. One year, not so good translated into the worst thing I have ever tried to eat.

Here’s the problem: chefs have studied scoring patterns and determined that desserts often determine the winner and loser. So they have made a dessert, even if the secret ingredient did not lend itself to a dessert. That awful dish in a previous year- actually, there were two awful dishes that evening, just one that was more awful than the other- was catfish cheesecake. It should never have been prepared at all. An abomination!

This year, if the secret ingredient is a protein, it is paired with another secret ingredient that is not a protein and is useable in a dessert. Both secret ingredients must be incorporated into two of the three courses. Last night, in B. Christopher’s v. J. Peppers, the two secret ingredients were Certified Angus Beef and strawberries. Guests saw strawberries incorporated into salad dressings, for example, or pickled (one of the best flavors of the meal) as a side accent, with the beef prepared different ways, each preparation excellent. But the dessert course was all strawberry based. No attempt to make a beef dessert. That’s as it should be.

Bottom line: less risk this year than in previous years for diners. And all the fun remains intact. Highly recommended!

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