Does it ever seem like the Foodie Nation has gone cuckoo? You know, “Sand-blasted Galician shitake-nuanced gluten-free crostini made from stalactite flour grown on the moon.” What created this multi-layered/cultural obsession with food?, I asked Executive Chef Gregory Rollins, sitting next to me at the high-energy “Got to be NC” Competition Dining Series event we were judging.
“Television,” was his quick response, referring to Food Network, Iron Chef and its spin-offs. No question.
We agreed Anthony Bourdain’s sizzling memoir KITCHEN CONFIDENTIAL and his TV shows that sprang from it contributed greatly. I also believe our technocentric culture has created a deep yearning to connect with the basics; a fundamental balancing act of primal and futuristic. He did not disagree.
Rollins, from Barbados, oversees the dining at Graylyn International Conference Center in Winston-Salem, NC. (Fine dining is also open to the public there.) As we awaited the unveiling of that night’s featured ingredient, we wondered what it might be. In the past, dueling chefs had to create menus that day incorporating items such as chestnut flour, ostrich, purple sweet potatoes, and pintade fermiere (a Heritage Guinea Hen).
Drum roll, please. Tonight the teams from Graze in Winston-Salem and Perky’s Bistro in Jamestown, NC, would be using skirt steak from Certified Angus Beef and Rowland’s Row Farm‘s freshly harvested tomatoes and peppers. How basic!
The courses were anything but that.
How about Korean Marinated Skirt Steak, Black Quinoa Stir Fry, Green-Pepper-Green Apple-Little G Farms Bibb Lettuce Kimchi, Blueberry & Heirloom Tomato BBQ Sauce, Oyster Mushroom Nage. That was one dish out of six that competed.
We were spared skirt steak in the two dessert entries. The winner in that round was Chocolate Genoise, Vanilla Genoise, Buttercream, Heirloom Tomato Ice Cream, Mixed Berry & Jalapeno Compote, Jalapeno Ganache, Rock Candy Sprinkles.
Team Graze led by chef Richard Miller took top honors. Congratulations, guys. High five to runner-up Tim Barbrey and his aces. And a tip of the toque to Jimmy Crippen who continues to refine and grow this foodie paradise franchise he calls “an emotionally inspiring interactive dining experience connecting the chef, the farmer, and the diner.” Everyone is a judge, really, via a cell phone app that tallies votes.
I asked Mr. Rollins what was his favorite dish that he created. “A dessert I made for a wine tasting with white chocolate, ginger mousse, red wine poached pear, smoked almonds, and candied pancetta.” Wow! Wish I had been there. I then posed this question: “If you were stranded on a desert island and could only have ten cooking ingredients with you, what would they be?” Fish, fowl, and meat would be available on the island for him to catch.
- Basmati Rice
- Mangoes or apples
- Hog Fat (if no pigs on the island) or chicken stock (if no chickens)
- Joseph Phelps cabernet
All pretty simple. I love the culinary adventure that eating has become. Love it. I’m never bored and rarely disappointed. I also love the simplest meal when the ingredients are fresh. These days my favorite indulgence is ice-cold seedless watermelon eaten over the kitchen sink. But I’d give this Southern Living Watermelon-Peach Salsa and Tomatoes recipe a try in a heartbeat.