The Competition is Heating Up & the Defending Champ Moves On to Round 2

This year's Fire in the Triangle competitors with Competition Dining's Founder & Host, Jimmy Crippen (Center)

This year’s Fire in the Triangle competitors with Competition Dining’s Founder & Host, Jimmy Crippen (Center)

On June 23rd Chef Dean Thompson of Flights, and 2013 Fire in the Triangle Champion, battled against Chef Joseph Yarnell of Cantina 18 incorporating secret ingredients La Farm Bakery Breads and White Street Brewing Company Kölsh into their 6 course menu. After all was said and done (and eaten!) Chef Thompson edged out Chef Yarnell by less than 9 points and will be moving on to round two on July 14th against Chef John Childers of Herons.

We had the opportunity to ask Chef Thompson a few questions about his experiences and expectations for this year’s Got to Be NC Competition Dining Series.

RH: Since winning in 2013 what have you learned to help prepare you for this year’s battle?
DT: We understand that you need to relate and appeal to the average diner. Do takes on popular dishes and incorporate interesting ingredients that they can’t do, or never have tried to do at their house.

RH: What are you most looking forward to?
DT: I want to defend the title and even if I don’t win, have a good showing every event.

RH: What are you least looking forward to?
DT: The heat and stress day of the event. The butterflies you get when you know it’s your day will drive you crazy, and push you to either make mistakes, or [rise] to the occasion.

RH: Tell us a little about the crew that will be supporting you during the battle.
DT: Anthony Zinani, Executive Sous Chef and returning team mate from 2013. He is a work horse and very talented chef. He makes my life both easier and much more difficult. Pamela Ballou, Sous Chef is a hard worker who is competing for the first time. She has earned the right to be on our team through her determination and hard work.

RH: What draws you to this type of event?
DT: The competition draws me in every time. I am the youngest of three and I’ve had to compete and fight all my life. I grew up heavily into competing in sports and just enjoy the physical and mental demands that this sort of competition brings.

RH: Where do you draw your culinary influences from?
DT: My culinary influences have to be the meals I grew up with, the restaurants I’ve worked in, and the country clubs and hotel I [have] been in as a manager/chef. I’ve worked in some top notch restaurants right out of Johnson & Wales University. An Italian restaurant and American restaurant that both do a wonderful job. Later, I went on to a country club in Durham, where I learned to do a more traditional southern American cuisine and had the opportunity to create my own style. Along with that, country club chefs need to be versatile and be able to run a restaurant and banquets, along with needing to have several skill sets. I learned a lot about being a cook/chef in that time at the club as well as honing my skills as a cook.

RH: What new challenges are you expecting to encounter (or hope not to encounter!) in this year’s competition?
DT: Our challenge this year will be to work as a team as well as last year. With a new competitor on our team we will need to sure up our communication in order to repeat.

RH: What surprises are you expecting?
DT: All new secret ingredients and challenging one’s at that. I’ve been surprised by a lot of the ingredients that have been chosen during this year’s events. They push [you] to be creative and it’s certainly going to test chefs when you throw in the pressure to perform on top of it.

We are looking forward to watching Chef Dean Thompson defend his title during the already sold out battle on July 14th! For a recap of the winning dishes in round 1 check out the results and official recap written by the official Fire in the Triad bloggers at WRAL’s Out and About.

About Fire in the Triangle

Fire in the Triangle is part of the Got to Be NC Competition Dining Series. The winner from Fire in the Triangle will go on to compete against the winners of the Fire on the Rock, Fire on the Dock, Fire in the Triad and Fire in the City competitions. The last chef standing wins $2,000 and the coveted red chef’s jacket. The runner-up will get $500.

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