May 1 Chefs Challenge: Inn on Biltmore Estate wins
By Eric Seeger
First of all, there’s no such thing as a bad secret ingredient at the WNC Chefs Challenge. It just doesn’t happen. Sure, sometimes you wind up with something a little predictable like last week’s eggs or a previous week’s corn. Those ingredients give the chefs a wide-open field to play in. On the other hand, this week’s secret ingredient forced chefs David Ryba of the Inn on Biltmore and Owen McGlynn of Storm Rhum Bar & Bistro to work a little harder.
Say hello to the mustard competition. And not just any mustard, Lusty Monk Mustard. For those of you who haven’t tried it yet (translation: haven’t lived yet), Lusty Monk is a local company that makes a series of mustards that refuse to sit on the side of your plate. They’re bold and flavorful. And as a result, Ryba and McGlynn had to negotiate agreement between their dishes and an ingredient that isn't shy in its cry for attention.
For both chefs, the Kofi Annan of this brokered peace deal was pork—in every dish, and many forms. If you don’t believe it, just look at the menu below, there was an element of swine in every offering from appetizer to dessert. When pressed for an explanation, the two chefs pointed out that the coincidence was understandable: The grease of pork (no matter how little) helps offset the tanginess of mustard.
Alright, enough wandering on the joys of mustard and the greasy goodness of pork, let’s get down to the chefs.
The two teams approached the night’s meal with completely different attitudes that were reflected in their dishes. Team Storm was brash and adventurous. Conversely, Team Inn at Biltmore was sometimes more predictable, but their dishes were executed with a finer point. In the end, Biltmore took home 58 percent of the points and advances to the next round.
All of Ryba’s dishes landed within the top three in points from the audience and professional judges. His goat cheese ravioli opened the night with oos and aahs, and the sweet corn polenta under his roast pork was a definite crowd-pleaser. Though it was Biltmore’s dessert that ran away with the competition: a slice of apple and bacon bread pudding with a side of semifreddo, which can best be described as near-frozen custard. When paired on the same fork with the bread pudding, magic happened. It’s no shock that Team Biltmore’s dessert was the highest scoring dish of the night.
McGlynn went home knowing that his team had offered the audience three very compelling and inventive dishes. Where Ryba’s dishes were compact, McGlynn’s were overt in composition, allowing diners more room to dissect and mix-and-match the ingredients on their plates. A perfect example of this was a prosciutto and shrimp appetizer. McGlynn’s team left the shrimp’s head and tail intact, presumably because they wanted you to get more involved with the dish than merely cutting off bits before ingesting. And Team Storm’s pork entrée over purple peas and topped with fiddlehead ferns had everyone in Pack’s Tavern talking. They closed out the evening with a bacon and pecan-topped grit custard that no one expected.
In the end, experience won the night. So far, there hasn’t been a Chefs Challenge final competition without a team from Biltmore. Ryba was wise to bring some Chefs Challenge alumni along on his team, and it paid off with a selection of finely honed dishes.
Congratulations to both teams!
May 1 Menu
Inn on Biltmore Estate
Goat cheese and Altar Boy Mustard ravioli, heirloom tomato jam, warm bacon and mustard vinaigrette
Chipotle Lusty Monk Mustard grilled pork loin, corn polenta, chorizo, roasted mushrooms, Original Sin veal jus
Bacon-apple bread pudding, Altar Boy Honey Mustard, semifreddo, beer caramel (Voted No. 1 Dish)
Storm Rhum Bar & Bistro’s Dishes
Original Sin Mustard grilled shrimp, braised wild mushrooms, prosciutto, and mustard Vinaigrette
Lusty Monk Mustard-rubbed pork with fiddlehead ferns, chicharon, purple cape peas, and sorghum reduction
Anson Mills grit custard, bacon lardon, Altar Boy Honey Mustard, pecans