A sterling lineup of chefs from around the region are getting their game faces on as culinary battle Got to Be NC Competition Dining Series returns to the kitchen and, better yet, to your plate if you’re a ticket-holder.

The premise is simple. Top chefs with two supporting team members face off and prepare three courses based on an ingredient that comes from a North Carolina farmer or artisan producer. The catch is that the chefs only learn the essential ingredient about an hour before they begin cooking.

Their work is then judged by a small group of professional judges (usually culinary professionals or journalists) and diners who bought tickets for the dinner. None of the people judging know which chef made which dish when scoring the six courses on everything from flavor to presentation. Winners in the first round advance to face each other and then those winners advance until there is only one. Regional winners receive $2,000, a handmade chef’s knife from Ironman Forge and the Red Chef Jacket (which was won in 2013 and 2014 by Dean Thompson of Flights at the Renaissance in Raleigh. They also earn the right to compete in a “Battle of the Champions” later in the year. That winner receives $4,000 and a trip to the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in Napa Valley, California.

Host and founder of the series, Jimmy Crippen, said that they decided to hold the competition earlier than usual this year to offer “a new season of food for the chefs to play with.” Also, this tends to be a slower time for of year for them.

The chefs participating this year were announced in an event at Zinda in downtown Raleigh on Wednesday morning. The first-round matchups are:

Jan. 19 – Gerry Fong of Persimmons Waterfront Restaurant in New Bern vs. Benjamin Harris of Midtown Grille in Raleigh;

Jan. 20 – Trey Cleveland of Top of the Hill Restaurant & Brewery in Chapel Hill vs. Ryan Conklin of Rex Healthcare in Raleigh;

Jan. 21 – Shane Ingram of Four Square Restaurant in Durham vs. Ben Strange of Aperitivo at Lawson’s Landing in New Bern;

Jan. 26 – Christopher Hill of Faire Steak & Seafood in Raleigh vs. Teddy Diggs of Il Palio in Chapel Hill;

Jan. 27 – Ben Adams of Piedmont Restaurant in Durham vs. Chelsi Hogue of Ed’s Southern Food & Spirits in Greensboro;

Jan. 28 – Patrick Cowden of Tobacco Road Sports Cafe in Raleigh/Durham vs. Curt Shelvey of Curt’s Cucina in Southern Pines;

Feb. 2 – Spencer Carter of Weathervane in Chapel Hill vs. Rhett Morris of Rhett’s Restaurant in Southern Pines;


Feb. 3 – Benjamin Guaman of Governors Club in Chapel Hill vs. Brandon Stark of Michael’s Seafood Restaurant in Carolina Beach.

Subsequent rounds will be Feb. 9-10, Feb. 16-17, Feb. 23-24 and March 2.

All of the competition takes place at 1705 Prime at 1705 E. Millbrook Road in Raleigh. Tickets range from $55 to $75 depending on which round of competition you’re attending. Visit www.competitiondining.com for details and reservations.