Wilmington's next cooking contest heats up
September 26, 2012By Liz Biro
Editor's note: The competition's date has been updated in this version.
In Wilmington’s world of culinary competition, a distinct rivalry exists between uptown and downtown. Which end of the city rules gastronomically will be up to diners and a few “professional” judges during the second School of Fire cooking contest.
Uptown chefs Keith Rhodes of Catch, Kirsten Mitchell of Cameo 19 Hundred and Tom Mills of Little Pond Catering will face Downtown toques Josh Woo of Yo Sake, James Doss of Rx and Rebeca Alvarado Paredes of Manna.
The showdown happens 5:30 p.m. Oct. 15 at Manna. Seats cost $60 now, $75 the day of the event, with a portion of proceeds going to Cape Fear Community College’s culinary technology program.
Tickets are available at Manna, 123 Princess St., where the contest was created last year when Manna chef Jameson Chavez met then-Caffe Phoenix cook Alex Morgan, who has since started shaking pans at Rx, 421 Castle St.
Chavez won that battle, but this year’s run looks to be more intense, especially with contestants’ competition experience. Rhodes participated in Bravo TV’s Top Chef: Texas while Woo, Doss, Mitchell and Alvarado Parades all competed in last spring’s Fire on the Dock cook-off at Shell Island Resort in Wrightsville Beach.
Additionally are the chefs’ own impressive resumes: Mitchell was in the running for Food & Wine magazine’s The People’s Best New Chef 2012 award. Doss worked for James Beard Award winner Sean Brock of Charleston restaurants Husk and McCrady’s. Rhodes was a 2011 James Beard Award nominee.
Similar to the original television program Iron Chef, School of Fire kitchen action will be broadcast live into the dining room, where Manna owner Billy Mellon will guide the audience through the chef rivalries and interactive games.
Unlike Iron Chef, the audience will rate food, and their votes will count for 25 percent of the each team’s marks. Each of the three judges -- Freaker USA owner Zack Crane, Wilmington food writer Liz Biro and a celebrity judge yet to be revealed -- will control 25 percent of the score.
Chavez will serve as kitchen referee. His Manna co-cook, Kyle Lee McKnight, and John Gray, creative director at Wilmington’s PARALLELLOGRAM production studio, will be live correspondents reporting news from the kitchen to the dining room.