Growing up in the New York metropolitan area, I was unaware of wild ramps until I moved to Tennessee. There, each year there is a ramp festival in Cosby, east of Knoxville. I never went so it wasn’t until last year, with the warmer spring weather, my CSA box rom Fish Hawk Acres was full of ramps week after week. It was a wonderful introduction to this wild leek.
Last year, as the local market was formed in Huntington, a naming contest was held on Facebook and The Wild Ramp won by popular vote. It has helped teach consumers about how a local market works: produce is available only when in season. At least once a week a newbie to the market asks if we have any ramps. One of our farmers, Aimee Figgatt of Tyler Creek Farm, dried some ramps last year and gave me a small baggie as a Christmas gift. Part of that was used at the Cast Iron Cook-Off but we will be able to enjoy a sprinkle of ramps out of season now.
I have a friend who shared a childhood story with me. Growing up in coal country, he attended a one-room school house. He said by the time ramps appeared in the woods people were eager for greens and the odors in the school room grew until children started to get kicked out for several days to let the oils subside. He said several kids who didn’t particularly care for school stretched out their ramp eating as long as possible to avoid class.
The colder spring temperatures this year mean the ramps are appearing later. The Richwood Ramp Festival is scheduled for April 20 and many fire halls and churches hold ramp supper fund raisers this time of year throughout Appalachia, even north into Quebec!
Imagine a high amount of nervous energy, a mix of skill levels and an amazing collection of food mostly from local sources and you might begin to come close to what the ballroom at the Greenbrier experienced Saturday, February 2. The Cast Iron Skillet Cook-Off attracts top chefs from West Virginia and this year a few from nearby states in Appalachia. It is a wonderful celebration of the way Appalachian Cuisine has evolved to reflect modern interpretations of the heritage of the cooking that was processed historically in these mountains.
Eight teams competed in Cast Iron Competition. They included The Bank (Pearrisburg, Virginia), Diogi’s (Fayetteville), the Greenbrier Golf Classic (White Sulphur Springs), Laurel Vista Farms (Somerset, Pennsylvania), Panorama at the Peak (Berkeley Springs), Pierpoint Culinary Academy (Fairmont), WV Generations (Rumsey), and WVU Alumni (Morgantown). Each team consisted of the chef and a sous-chef, seven people with various levels of experience, and one high school Pro-Start student.
Three teams competed in the Throwdown. These were the top three winning teams from the 2012 Competition and included Bridgeport Conference Center at Charles Point (Bridgeport), Mountwest Culinary School (Huntington) and WVU Small Farm Center (Morgantown). Each team consisted of the chef and a sous-chef, seven people with various levels of experience, and one high school Pro-Start student.
This year a new class of competition was included for the first time. As the reputation of the Cast Iron Skillet Cook-Off has risen, interest from outside West Virginia has increased. Three teams of chefs competed in the Superbowl. Representing West Virginia were the three chefs from last year’s Throwdown accompanied each by an advanced culinary student. Teams from Asheville, North Carolina and the Tri-Cities region of southwestern Virginia and northeastern Tennessee also competed.
Cast Iron Cook-Off Competition
Best Use of Cast Iron:
TIE: The Bank Food and Drink & Panorama at the Peak
Laurel Vista Farm (HM)
Whistle while you work:
Panorama at the Peak
WVU Alumni (HM)
TIE: The Bank Food and Drink & Panorama at the Peak (HM)
Best Use of Appalachian Produce
Laurel Vista Farm
West Virginia Next Generation (HM)
Best Use of Protein
WVU Next Generation
Tie: Greenbrier Golf Classic and The Bank Food and Drink (HM)
Best Use of Value Added:
Greenbrier Golf Classic
Best Single Course
Greenbrier Golf Classic
People’s Choice Award
The Bank Food and Drink
Winner: Asheville, NC
Fifteen teams from within Appalachia gathered at the Greenbrier Resort on Februrary 1 and 2 for the 8th annual Cast Iron Skillet Cokk-off. Eight teams from West Virginia participated in the regular competition. The three top ranking teams from last year competed in the Throwdown. This year the chefs from the three Throwdown teams joined with an assistant each to form Team WV and competed against chefs from Asheville, NC and Tri-Cities, VA/TN.
This is the first of several entries explaining what went on there and the impressive dishes that were prepared within the allotted time. For now, please enjoy the photos.First, images from Friday night’s Coat Reception.
It’s often described as the Olympics of the Food World. Entering its 26th edition in 2013, the Bocuse D’Or—a biennial competition started by one of the fathers of French cooking, Paul Bocuse, that brings together the best chefs in a country, and then the world—is one of the great culinary honors.
In 2012 the top toque award at the U.S.A. competition went to Chef Richard Rosendale of The Greenbrier. He went on with his team to compete January 30 in Paris and came in 7th place out of 24 teams!!
This weekend the Greenbrier will be the location of one of West Virginia’s most acclaimed cooking competitions. The Cast Iron Skillet Cook-Off is organized by the Collaborative for 21st Century Appalachia to spotlight the region as a culinary destination.
Fourteen teams will be participating in three different cooking competitions on Saturday, February 2. If you can not go to Greenbrier to cheer them on, you can watch the event which will be live-streamed by Bethany College’s Department of Communications. Go to http://client.stretchinternet.com/client/bethanywvadmin.portal#. to join in the festivities! The cook-off starts at 9:30 and the awards ceremony at 5p.m.
The Cast Iron Skillet Cook-Off scheduled for Friday and Saturday, February 1st and 2nd at The Greenbrier is a gathering of some of the region’s best chefs and cooks, farmers and state officials. The competition demonstrates the amazing talents of eight teams from all over West Virginia. Each team will prepare four courses for the judges and one dish of each course will be on display for a People’s Choice award. People can visit the competition and vote for their favorite display.
The three top teams from last year will be competing in a Throw-Down, preparing a three-course meal for tables of eight people who have paid for the treat. Also judged, the expectations are high and the competitive atmosphere may be a bit more tense.
As the reputation of the Cast Iron Skillet Cook-Off has spread, a third competition will be held this year. There will be also be a SuperBowl where three teams will cook. The chefs from last year’s ThrowDown will represent West Virginia but there will also a team from the Asheville, North Carolina area and another from southwestern Virginia/northeastern Tennessee.
Meanwhile, in another part of the Greenbrier, an informativel Colloquium will be running, presenting concepts as well as experiences that will enhance cultural tourism of the Appalachian region. Attendees will hear about how music, art and food can attract travelers who are looking to experience the region’s best.
You can watch it all! Bethany College, located in West Virginia’s northern panhandle, has a world class Communications Department. M.E. Gamble, Department Chair, has been attending the Cast Iron event for many years in various capacities. This year she and her students will be providing a live-stream video feed that you can watch by going to http://client.stretchinternet.com/client/bethanywvadmin.portal#. Streaming will start Saturday at 9:30.