Fire in the City – The Heat is On, Charlotte!!!

HEIDI BILLOTTO FOODFor information on how to book your reservations for Charlotte’s Fire in the city Competition Dining series – click here to the NC Competition Dining page on this blog

For the story on how Competition Dining in Charlotte came to be, read on…..

Several years ago I had the distinct pleasure of being a judge for one of the Fire on the Rock culinary competitions at Crippen’s Country Inn and Restaurant  in Blowing Rock.

The idea for a competiton between the  talented  chefs in the Boone and Blowing Rock region  was the brainchild of restaurateur Jimmy Crippen. He saw it as a way to create some culinary excitement in the area during the off-season. The chefs came to compete on neutral ground ( Crippen’s ) and to make it fun,  Jimmy followed the Iron Chef/Chopped idea of featuring a secret ingredient; but made it his own with the help of food distributors from Pate Dawson/Southern Foods.

At competition dining dinners, you see, the secret ingredient is homegrown – Good to Be In NC products are featured at each and every dinner and the chefs must incorporate them in each course.  That first  dinner I attended was delicious and tons of fun – three courses, two plate for each course and not only did the invited professional judges vote, but everyone at the dinner  voted ( via a Smart phone app) for their favorite dish from each course in an effort to come up with the champion of the culinary battle.

I spoke with Jimmy then about how he wanted to develop the concept. It wasn’t long before Fire on the Rock , opened way to Fire on the Dock in the Wilmington area; and then to Fire in the Triad, in the Raleigh , Durham and Greensboro region.  The Competiton Dining concept has been such a success that Jimmy has since sold the old Crippen’s and is now working exclusively on developing Competition Dining.

Jimmy Crippen and his Competition Dining team don’t do anything in a small way – these dinner are top notch culinary events where everyone enjoys the food and the frivolity – while its a serious competition with high stakes on the line, and  the chefs are very intent on their part of the evening;  Crippen makes it all entertaining – never a dull moment from the start to finish of each dinner.

Jimmy Crippen Your host for each evening of the Fire in the City Competition Dining
Jimmy Crippen
Your host for each evening of the Fire in the City Competition Dining

After much anticipation,  starting next week, September 3,  Crippen’s NC Competition Dining now comes to Charlotte as Fire in the City – a bracketed culinary competition between 16 of the Queen City’s most talented chefs, each bringing their A game to the culinary battlefield and having a great time all along the way – don’t miss out on all the fun-filled action.

At each dinner,  two restaurants battle it out side by side in a single elimination,  using a blind dinner format and you can be a part of it all!

The dinners start on September 3 and run though Oct 22. Tickets are on sale now for each individual dinner  at Don’t miss out – make your reservations now!!

I am very proud to say that is the official blog of the Fire in the City competition!

Experience the dinners you can’t attend vicariously, by following me via this blog as I savor my way through each of the 15 evenings of the competition. Check back after each individual dinner to get  front row seat on what went on behind the scenes on the kitchen line, what  the chefs first impressions were, photos of all the dishes, what the secret ingredient was,   what diners thought , and most importantly which chef moved up a bracket to compete another day, one step closer to the prize of being Charlotte’s first Fire in the City champion.

Each of the Fire in the City Competition Dining dinners will take place at Bonterra Dining & Wine Room, a fabulous Charlotte dining spot  in  a  110 year old historic church building  at 1829 Cleveland Ave, Charlotte, NC.    Arrive early if you like and  kick off the evening with a cocktail hour in Bonterra’s award-winning bar. Guests are invited to purchase wine, beer or mixed drinks and enjoy;  then the Dinners begin at 7 pm sharp.

As  a participant , you get to savor a six-course menu (three courses from each chef without knowing whose food you’re tasting) created around a “Mystery” North Carolina ingredient. The ingredient is revealed to the chefs at noon the day of their battle and it must be used in each of their three courses.

Check out my Fire in the City – NC Competition Dining page on this blog to see who the culinary contenders are, check out each of the brackets and decided which dinners you’d like to attend.

Reservations are a must  and tickets are selling like wild fire ( pun intended), so call your friends and make your reservations now!

HOW IT WORKS: Paying guests will savor each course in a blind tasting alongside a panel of culinary and celebrity judges in a series of 15 dinner competitions. Each evening, two restaurants “battle” it out side-by-side in a single elimination format. Guests savor a six-course menu (three dishes from each chef without knowing whose food they’re tasting) created around a “featured” ingredient. For each dinner, the ingredient will come from a North Carolina farmer or artisan producer. The featured ingredient is revealed to the chefs only an hour before they start cooking, and it must be used in each of the three courses. It’s going to be great fun to see what our Charlotte chefs do to creatively and deliciously present this local and regional product.

Diners, alongside culinary and guest judges, will rate each dish and determine who moves on to the next round and who goes home. At stake in each series is a grand prize of $2,000, a handmade chef knife by Ironman Forge in Charlotte, and the coveted “Red Chef Jacket.” The runner-up receives $500. Reservations for dinners cost $59 excluding beverage, tax and tip. Reservations for the semi-final and final are $69. Diners can attend as many dinners as they like.

Don’t wait to make your reservations, I’ll count on seeing you there!   Tickets are on sale now at

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