Iron Chef Bloggers in Asheville, NC and Cherry Sauce Recipe

iron chef blogger

“Let the battle begin!”

It definitely felt like a war during our first full day on the East Coast en route to the Asheville, NC blogger bash.  I won’t divulge into the details about our horrendous experience with !&*%#! Delta Airlines, but what I will say is THANK GOODNESS for the amazing Asheville hospitality and passionate food folks that saved me from sending a three page letter to Delta. I became this (pinching my fingers together) close to going postal on Delta’s terrible infrastructure. Luckily, it was the warmth of Sheridan and Dodie that kept me from un-leashing my inner bitch. Oops, did I say “bitch?”  Naw, me?

As soon as we hurled ourselves off that plane, we were catapulted into an itinerary that only a neurotic, artisan inspired, food loving, farmer hugging, fresh hogging, local & sustainable believing fool would love. Whoo hoo! Yup, that’s us! Every single bit of our blood was DNA analyzed by the Asheville organizers and they somehow managed to perfectly immerse us with all things that inspire us – growing, cooking and eating food from a community where nearly everything is grown, raised, or made locally and with great care, respect and excellence.

Asheville, NC is an inspiring example of how passionate and conscientious citizens can come together to support one another to grow, eat and live better. Visit The Applalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project and you’ll understand the depth of devotion to local food and dedication to supporting one another in the Asheville community.


Before I really start this post, I must give a gigantic heads-up (props, shout out, or what ever slang makes sense) to Dodie Stevens for her heroine of a planning project. She managed to squeeze every waking Asheville hour that we were there with an introduction and education of Asheville’s local food community. There was not one single hour without food and inspiring story from a farmer, artisan or local Chef and there was not one hour that we didn’t throw out our surrender flags of “I…can’t….eat….drink…any…more.” Although everything was so incredibly good we somehow found a way to make room each time we were shown a new goodie. Regardless of the gut expanding consequences, the trip was a phenomenal back to back itinerary that we don’t regret one bit and hope beautiful Dodie doesn’t change it for next year’s group! Here’s a fun proof picture of Jaden’s twitter  to show just how much we ate.

So, after checking into the hotel, Dodie planned an Iron Chef style competition at the AB-Tech Culinary Arts Center. Each blogger was paired with a local Asheville Chef and was given a CSA mystery box of local produce to cook with. The kitchen at the Culinary Arts Center was amazing and each team was assigned a station and given two hours to prepare two courses.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I find that to be hugely intimidating!

appalachian sustainable agriculture projectBeing thrown into a cooking competition with a professional Chef you’ve never met or worked with, being given a “what the hell is in that CSA” mystery box of ingredients  and two flipping hours to cook two delicious courses, all in front of an audience of local PR folks and television station! Holy Moly, that’s a crazy, nerve racking situation to be thrown in, especially when this was supposed to be a “foodie vacation”.

That’s why I had Todd be in the competition while I took the photographs.

Hey, SOMEONE needed to document this event for the blog.

iron chef bloggerAgain, this was another remarkable planning project by Dodie and her team. They had a total of 6 teams (blogger with Chef) and when they made the announcement of “go!” this Culinary School turned into an awe inspiring cooking scene that rivals what I see on the Food Network. Every single blogger exhibited knowledge of food and kitchen skills that would make food blog critics cringe.

Jaden, Helen, Todd, Tami and Alison’s  poise, calm and professionalism made me proud to be a food blogger. I was beaming with pride and wish I had my “Got Food Blog?” t-shirt on. The pairing up of Chefs with bloggers was pretty well thought out too. Each team worked with great rhythm and flow throughout the whole competition, along with the extra exhibitionism of a  few particular teams that proved to be comical, inebriated  entertainers as well.

Now let the real battle begin!


Here’s a visual story from the Iron Chef Blogger Competition:

The Teams:

asheville north carolina

Team Wonder Women- Blogger Alison of The Humble Gourmand w/ Chef Annie Pettry of Savoy Restaurant

These talented and classy ladies had the cleanest, most well organized and laid out mis en place! They worked together so  quietly, smoothly, naturally, like they were sisters. I think they had some hidden super powers.



Team Redneck- Blogger Todd of White On Rice Couple w/ Chef Tres Hundertmark of The Lobster Trap & Oyster House Brewing Company

When you have two White guys pulling out the homemade moonshine and drinking it while the wood that Chef Tres cut from his backyard cherry tree was smoking on the grill, and they plate the final dish with the slab of trout nailed to the wood plank, I call that a reunion party of two distant redneck cousins. BTW- did you know Tres is one of the fastest oyster shuckers in the world? Applause! *burp!*


asheville north carolina

Team Scholars- Blogger Brain of The Food Geek w/ Chef Michael Gentry “The Sustainable Gourmet” & Everyone Cooks!

Two passionate fella’s who have honed their craft so well, a Food Geek to the max and an obsessed, sustainable cooking instructor. Everything zucchini dice and chile charring on the flame was like watching two scientists in the lab.


asheville western north carolina

Team Frenchie Invasion– Blogger Helen of Tartelette w/ Chef Michel Baudouin of Bouchon

Two french chefs at the same station, discussing their menu strategy in French so that no one can understand what they’re saying was sneaky.  Not Fair! And, these two Frenchies had some fabulous classic french cooking and pastry skills. Not fair! Shit de merde!


asheville north carolina

Team Artiste– Blogger Tami of Running with Tweezers w/ Chef Anthony Cerrato of Fiore’s Toscana

Pair up a professional food stylist (Tami) with a Chef specializing in Italian cuisine and you have an artistic duo of old world charm and modern creations at it’s best. Even Tami’s perfectly thin sliced fennel bulb was like a painting.


north carolina asheville

Team Hottie- Blogger Jaden of Steamy Kitchen w/ Chef Adam Hayes of Red Stag Grill

She’s pretty in pink from a blog named Steamy, He steamed up the kitchen with his charm and they’re both HOT! Someone, call the fire department to subdue all the sexy flames from the hottie duo.


The  Honorable Judges


iron chef blogger

Left to Right: Head Judge Sheila Tillman ( Associate Dean of Hospitality), Andrew Pratt (Chef/Instructor), Brownwin McCormic (Chairperson), Frederick Snyder (Chef/Instructor)  and Kevin Schwartz,  Sommelier & Assistant Director of Food & Beverage , Grove Park Inn & Resort.


iron chef blogger asheville

Team Wonder Women have total concentration and focus, while Team Hottie gets a little playful. Jaden of Team Hottie tells dirty jokes to Helen of Team Frenchie Invasion. What a smart distraction move by Team Hottie. Get Team Frenchie laughing and maybe they’ll burn their tart!



Peter Marks handing out Fresh Trout from Sun Burst Trout farm. The CSA Mystery Veggie Boxes were supplied by the  Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project.


smoked trout cherry wood

The two moon-shine brothers of Team Redneck were having too good of a time. When you plate your food on a slab of wood and have to secure it with a metal nail, that’s what I call classic redneck cooking. Btw- the red dippy thing is the cherry sauce.


iron chef blogger

Team presentation of their final dishes. Beautiful! Choosing a winner will be tough.




The judges appeared to be in a positive mood. That’s a good thing. Don’t piss off a judge when he/she is about to rate your cooking.


iron chef asheville

Judges comments “….Tres and Todd really nailed it with their Trout on Cherry wood dish! “

(Actually, it was the comical Chef Michael from Team Frenchie who said that


winnersAnd the winners were…….Team Wonder Women!!! Allison & Annie wowed the judges with their simple and fresh style of cooking. Their final dishes of Seared Trout fillet, Chorizo and red quinoa risotto, yellow squash and basil—Yukon gold potatoes Fennel bulb and fronds won over the judges!! Congratulations ladies!

The final results were very, very close. The judges said that it was a very tough decision and everyone’s dishes were fabulous!


Cherry Sauce Recipe

Yield: @ 2 1/2 cups

Total Time: 30 Minutes

This is an adaptation of the cherry sauce that Chef Tres made for the competition. The versatile sauce can be used on grilled fish and even ice cream!


  • 1/2 lb fresh cherries, washed & pitted
  • 2 cups water
  • 3 Tablespoons sugar
  • 5 black peppercorns


  1. Combine all ingredients in saucepan.
  2. Simmer for about 30 minutes or until sauce thickens. Skim occasionally.
  3. Use as a glaze for seafood or topping for desserts.
Recipe Source:

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Recipe Note for Salt: All recipes containing salt are based on kosher or sea salt amounts, not table salt. If using table salt, reduce the amount used to taste.

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{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }
  1. Jennifer

    Oops meant to say I’ll NEVER use Delta again. Never underestimated proofreading, even for comments.

  2. Jennifer

    Just catching up on all the Asheville posts. Sounds like it was a great trip. And I second the ordeal with Delta. I vowed to use them again after my last experience in April. You’re name came up with another food blogger recently and they said the White on Rice couple is so sweet. Maybe we’ll get to meet at Foodbuzz in November.

  3. White on Rice Couple

    It really was SO MUCH FUN. I do hope that you all get an opportunity to visit Asheville and participate in something like this! Make sure you let us know so we can read all about it!

  4. Deborah Worley

    I just want to know in advance when the next competition is happening! Makes me proud to be an Ashevillian!!!

  5. Bekki

    I wish I could have seen that! And I wish I could move to Asheville…. Awesome write-up, awesome pics.

  6. Serena

    My sister Annie rocks the kithchen once again! We miss her cookin at our family dinners but Savoy has her cheffin it up which Asheville now gets to reap the benifits of this culinary wonder woman. We love you!

  7. Rose

    Great report! This looks like SO much fun. It’s fantastic to see bloggers and famous chefs collaborating on fun food projects.

  8. matt

    WOW! This would be so much more fun to watch than the regular iron chef. Just really loving the dish that Todd and “the other redneck” put together – trout, nailed to a board? – sounds tasty and inspired to me. The presentation must have been awesome.

    Todd looks like a serious pro in the kitchen, which is of course what he is. You guys should think about starting something up like this in your local town – lots of food bloggers, would make a really cool event a couple of times a year.

  9. Leah

    Such talent! Great post, D. Felt like I was there. I want the rest of the nailed salmon recipe! 😉

  10. Adam

    Team Hottie Rules!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  11. Tiina

    Great report! That must have been so much fun.


  12. we are never full

    whoa… what a post. what an event! team hottie – hilarious! they are both hotties! looks like a really fun and still very professional event. i would’ve liked to have been a judge!

    ps: delta sucks – i have had a few bad experiences w/ them.

  13. Manggy

    Lookin’ good, guys! Actually Todd, I was thinking “Redneck” was a bit of a stretch, but as long as you’re proud of it 🙂 I love that there was some sort of team spirit in each pairing- quite a serendipitous group of bloggers and chefs that happened to participate eh? Thanks for sharing!

  14. foodwoolf

    Wow! Thank you so much for taking photo duty! Those pictures were just incredible. You really made me feel like I was in the kitchen with you all. And smart choice, because I think team redneck seemed to be very well paired!

    What a laugh out loud funny post!

    Welcome back!

  15. Dodie @AshevilleTravel

    Wow, reading your cook-off post was almost as fun as being there! But we need scratch-n-taste monitors to really relive all that tasty local food action. I totally regret not getting a sip of that homemade kombucha and moonshine cocktail! The chef/blogger team chemistry was amazing…come to think of it, I think we had real chemistry experiments going on over at Team Scholar’s station!

  16. Christie @ Fig & Cherry

    Fantastic post guys! I may as well have been there (wish I really was!) 😛

  17. Simone (junglefrog)

    Ofcourse I had been reading about your adventures on Helen’s blog, so I had to come and see all the visuals to go along with it. What a wonderful group of people and such a fantastic event! I think I would be scared out of my mind having to cook with professional chef’s but it seems you guys all nailed it. Looks fantastic!

  18. Tartelelette

    You have no idea how hard I had to duct tape my brain not to start cussing and switching the kitchen talk button on. This was just an awesome time with awesome people like you and Todd! (btw, we want more rednecks down here if they all cook and drink like you!) Damn! I want to do it again!!
    I think I was more flabbergasted to see a French men crack up a good joke with “you nailed it” than anything else!
    Thank you for making look all dreamy and fantastic like it was.

  19. Jen Yu

    Oh Diane, you are a riot! Way to go TODD!!! Love the writeup and everything looks phenomenal. I think the creativity of team redneck’s plating is spot on. You’re in the South after all. Nice touch and good job keeping the others on their toes 🙂 I know for a fact that any food Todd touches is pure gold, so the competition must have been fierce! but in the best way possible.

  20. ravenouscouple

    how exciting and fun!! wish we could see it on video and all that adrenaline ! We love the nail of team redneck!!

  21. Lisa (Homesick Texan)

    They’re all winners! And Todd, where I’m from the term “redneck” is a badge of honor.

  22. White on Rice Couple

    I would like to protest the labeling of “Redneck.” That is so biased. So what if we used a slab of cherry tree. It made the trout tasty. And the nail was a nice finishing touch. The moonshine was just a nice gesture of hospitality and it was smoother than most high end whiskey’s you’ll find. Alright I did swear a bit in front of the audience eliciting some gasps and a couple giggles, but the man cooks damn good without messing with the food, and the adrenaline from the kitchen was still flowing. Well, now that I look back on it… Redneck we are! Oh well. At least we can cook like a couple of son of a bitches! -Todd.

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