King of the Mountain Chef’s Challenge 2012 and Fennel Pollen Sautéed Trout Fillet on Parsnip and Apple Puree
Chef Johannes Klapdohr, of Old Edwards Inn and Spa, was in the hunt to retain his crown after beating Chef Nicholas Figel (Cypress Restaurant) last year. Other chefs from the Highlands-Cashiers Plateau in competition for the title of King of the Mountain title were John Fleer of Canyon Kitchen at Lonesome Valley (Cashiers, NC) and Mat Kowal of Gamekeeper’s Tavern (Sapphire, NC).
Justin Ward was the only chef from the lowlands….an Atlantan, filling in for Chef Nicholas Figel, who was unable to attend. Ward is an Instructor at The International Culinary School at The Art Institute of Atlanta and former owner of Harvest Restaurant & Cosecha Restaurant in Atlanta.
This mountain version of Iron Chef was a bit more challenging than the one that you are familiar with on television. You may not be aware that the chefs on television know several days in advance what their secret ingredient will be, while these chefs were completely unaware of the secret ingredients. To further complicate matters, rather than just one secret ingredient, which is the focus on Iron Chef television, this chef’s challenge had three secret ingredients awaiting them in their baskets.
The four chefs were paired off and competed in first round challenges with the winners competing head to head for the title “King of the Mountain”. Each round brought new secret ingredients to the competing chefs.
The judges for this competition included Executive Chef Denny Trantham of Grove Park Inn (Asheville, NC) and Kevin Ouzts, Owner and Executive Chef of The Spotted Trotter in Atlanta, GA. There was also a guest from the audience chosen to be a judge for each of the challenges.
Shelley Skiles Sawyer, Managing Food Editor of Flavors Magazine, was the emcee for the day sharing the floor with Steve Day, Operations Manager of WHLC FM in Highlands and J.T. Fields, Owner of Mountain Fresh Grocery and Wine Market.
The mood was intense in the room as the challengers arrived, selected their mystery baskets and went to work. The first competition paired Chefs Fleer and Ward in a battle using a mystery basket of quail, coffee beans and citrus to create three separate dishes. This heated battle over a forty minute span resulted in Chef Ward advancing to the final round.