August 20 Chefs Challenge: A Summery Semi-final

By Maggie Cramer


Things got corny Tuesday night at the first of the WNC Chefs Challenge semifinal rounds at Pack's Tavern between Chef Daniel Wright and team Tomato Jam Café and Chef Steven Goff and team Zambra/Ben’s Tune-Up/King James Public House. The secret ingredient—yellow and white corn donated by FreshPoint and Jackson Brothers Farms in South Carolina (check out their cool corn logo online)—ensured that the night’s courses screamed of the season. Chef Wright and team sought to create dishes that highlighted corn’s sweetness yet were savory to boot. They kicked off the challenge with a corn-crusted fried green tomato topped with a crawfish and corn salad (a teammate’s specialty) and served with a roasted corn sauce. For their second dish, they chose the classic sweet-savory pairing of pork and apples, whipping up roasted pork loin with a fried corn fritter and roasted apple and corn slaw. For dessert? The evening’s #1 dish as voted by attendees: creamed corn pudding topped with a roasted corn shortbread cookie and butterscotch whipped cream. A nod to the way most of us enjoy corn on the cob in summertime, Chef Wright shared that the way he sees it, “Corn and butter should never be separated.” 


For their first offering of the night, Chef Goff and team served seared rare tuna atop a corn broth with corn relish and crab. Their second dish was, coincidentally, the #2 dish of the battle: seared duck breast with corn jalapeno puree, corn salad, black-eyed peas, and corn oil. Instead of corn meets butter, they chose another match made in heaven for dessert: corn meets the grill. They created a charred corn cake with corn anglaise, blackberry corn meringue, and corn whiskey macerated berries. 


As to be expected of a semifinal round, the competition was close. In fact, Asheville Wine & Food Festival Founder and Director Bob Bowles shared it was almost a tie before getting a big drum roll from the crowd and announcing team Tomato Jam Café the victors. Chef Wright and his colleagues will go on to compete against Wednesday night’s semifinal winner at the Grand Tasting on Saturday, August 24. At stake for the last chef standing is $5,000 and at least $1,000 worth of retail supplies and equipment from FRS Asheville. There’s nothing corny about that!



Team Tomato Jam Cafe

- Corn-crusted fried green tomato, crawfish and corn salad, roasted corn sauce

- Roasted pork loin, fried corn fritter, roasted apple and corn slaw

- Creamed corn pudding, roasted corn shortbread cookie, butterscotch whipped cream


Team Zambra/Ben’s Tune-Up/King James Public House

- Seared rare tuna, corn broth, corn relish, crab

- Seared duck breast, corn jalapeno puree, corn salad, black-eyed peas, corn oil

- Charred corn cake, corn anglaise, blackberry corn meringue


A huge thanks to Maggie Cramer of ASAP for contributing this post to our Festival Blog.