When you’ve got it, you’ve got it. And what the Triangle has is great chefs, including two who have cooked up big wins in separate contests.
Chef Ryan Conklin of UNC Rex Healthcare beat out 70 top chefs to win the championship round of The Got to Be NC Competition Dining Series, which highlights the best of Carolinas’ food, agriculture and culinary talent.
Must-have ingredients for the final round dinner, revealed the day of the contest, were Jarrett Bay oysters and Outer Banks SeaSalt, and each course was required to include at least one local produce item.
“We never expected a day full of shucking nearly 700 oysters, which definitely cut into our cooking time, but it was a true test of our team’s culinary talents and a perfect fit for competitive spirit of the tournament,” said Conklin.
“I felt confident about how the day went in large part to my two teammates, Chefs Steve Pexton and Collin Jennings. Both chefs were instrumental in every battle, from our regional series to this championship. I couldn’t be prouder that we came out on top, showing that we’re more than just hospital food.”
Conklin’s highest scoring dish of the Oct. 31 battle was his second course of cornmeal fried Jarrett Bay oyster, slow roasted tomatoes, rosemary chimichurri, pan fried North Carolina grouper, cauliflower puree, Outer Banks SeaSalt, black truffle, and sorrel and langoustine salad.
As part of Conklin’s victory, he earns the grand prize of $4,000 cash, two handmade chef knives by Ironman Forge and a trip to the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in Napa Valley, Calif.
Chef Lloyd Banks of Ruckus Pizza, Pasta & Spirits took the Guests’ Favorite Award at the eighth annual American Heart Association Chef’s Challenge in October, an annual event that kicks off the Triangle Heart Ball, which helps fund research and medical programs across the country.
“We were thrilled to be asked to participate in this year’s Chef’s Challenge,” said Robert Royster, owner of Ruckus Pizza, Pasta & Spirits. “From the start, we’ve seen Ruckus as a way to share the food we love with our community, and we’d like to thank the American Heart Association for giving us the opportunity to do so while contributing to such a great cause.”
Banks prepared a 12-hour smoked brisket, blue cheese coleslaw, Ruckus sauce and guacamole, plus key lime pie bites in phyllo cups topped with fresh whipped cream, candied Nilla Wafer dust and lime zest.
More than 200 guests spent two hours sampling the six chefs dishes, before voting for their favorite.
As a winning participant, Banks will have the opportunity to return to the Chef’s Challenge as a judge next year.