Local chefs go head-to-head in the Triad

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GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Local chefs are going head-to-head to prove who’s a cut above the rest.

Fire in the Triad is a local cooking competition within the "Got to be NC Competition Dining Series." The competition showcases the Triad’s food industry while giving people the chance to judge each chef’s courses.

"Well you watch these TV shows on chefs competing, so it's not unlike that except instead of sitting on the couch and watching them, you get to judge. That’s the whole fun of it,” Series Founder Jimmy Crippen said.

Diners taste six courses, three from each chef, and rate them within an electronic ballot.

Tuesday’s competition featured Chef Richard Miller of Graze and Chef Brandon Sherrill of District Rooftop Bar and Grille -- both based in Winston-Salem. The two worked side by side to put out a total of 420 plates.

The chefs were required to create unique dishes around the "mystery" North Carolina ingredient, which on Tuesday was Johnston County mangalitsa ham.

"Not knowing what the ingredients are going to be, not knowing what you have to work with, it's a rush for chefs,” Miller said.

"I think this competition really showcases what we're capable of. It brings a side that you wouldn't normally see in a restaurant. It's not an environment where you get to fix your mistakes,” Sherrill said.

For the chefs, the competition not only challenges them to be creative and learn from each other, but it's a way to educate people on what really goes into executing a good dish. There is also a strong emphasis on using local products.

"It’s amazing what's going on in the state right now as far as the distilleries, the micro-breweries, the farmers, the food,” Chef Ref Laurence Willard said.

Graze won Tuesday’s competition and will move on to another round. Organizers say in the long run, everyone gets a victory.

"Ultimately, it ups the standard of everybody when you put competition into play,” Crippen said.

He continued, "The key is to get travel and tourism to come to North Carolina and dine in these fine restaurants."

Fire in the Triad continues through June 2. The chefs are competing for $2,000, the coveted red chef's jacket and a chance to compete in the Final Fire Battle of Champions in November.