Two local chefs will be among the competitors in a bracket-style, head-to-head cook-off competition next week.
Carolina Crossroads’ Executive Chef James Clark and Chef Lemar Farrington of La Residence Restaurant & Bar will compete in the Fire in the Triangle cook-off next week. Though the two will not initially be competing against each other, they may get the chance if each makes it to the next round.
The chefs will battle head-to-head against one competitor to create a three-course meal revolving around a secret ingredient, which they will learn on the day of the competition.
“It could be corn, it could be chocolate, it could be jalapenos,” Clark said.
“But you know, it could be one-eyed, one-horned, flying purple people-eaters.
“The great thing about being a chef is … you’ve got to be business-savvy, but you’ve got to get in there and create with what you have around you.”
Farrington said past secret ingredients include peaches, heirloom tomatoes, bacon, grits and shrimp, among others.
Diners at the competition will taste each of the dishes and vote for their favorite chef using a smartphone app. The guests’ vote counts for 70 percent, while the competition’s judges’ votes will count for 30 percent.
Farrington said he applied for the competition in hopes of competing against his former boss at a previous job.
“Hopefully I’ll go up against him, and hopefully I’ll win,” he said.
“If not, I think it’ll just be tons of fun anyway.”
The winner of the competition receives a red chef’s jacket, $2,000 and the chance to compete in the Final Fire round against the winners of Fire competitions of three other North Carolina regions, Farrington said. He said the overall winner of last year’s competition was the chef at the Weathervane, who received an additional $4,000 and a custom set of knives.
Farrington said he grew up in the Caribbean, so his cooking is often influenced by Caribbean flavors. He said he may draw from his background during the competition.
“If (the ingredients) lend itself to it, I might pull out a couple of Caribbean tricks here and there,” he said.
Clark said the ingredients used are usually local, and come from places like Maple View Farm and Goat Lady Dairy.
Bill Hartley, the executive sous chef at Carolina Crossroads, will participate in the competition as one of Clark’s two permitted team members. He said he and Clark have participated in at least seven competitions together over the last five years.
Clark said they’ve been reading up about dishes and combinations of flavors in preparation, as well as doing some research on their first competitor and secret ingredients from past competitions.
Hartley said the two have also come up with a number of dessert recipes, since their pastry chef will be out of town for the first round Monday.
“We’ll bring her with us if — when — we make it through to the next round,” he said.
Farrington said he’s been cooking for about 15 years and was trained during his last two years of high school.
“The rest of it is just my passion driving myself to learn more, to take on more and just get better at what I love doing,” he said.
“I got up one day and told my mother I’m taking all of her cookbooks and just started cooking everything in them.
“And that was history.”
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