Cary, NC – When Cary chef Ryan Summers and his team entered the Got To Be NC Competition Dining Series, they had no expectations going in. Cut to a few weeks later and they have beaten all his opponents in the three rounds, making Summers one of the Raleigh regional champions as he moves onto the Battle of Champions.
Get To Work
While Summers, from Chef’s Palette Restaurant and Bar in Cary, and his team ended up winning the final round on Sunday, July 24, 2016, he said he had no experience when it came to competitions. In fact, he wasn’t even experienced with the first round’s secret ingredient: poulet rouge.
“I work with chicken every day but I’d never worked with poulet rouge,” Summers said.
In the end, Summers said his familiarity with team leader Franz Propst from Peak City Grill and Bar in Apex helped him focus.
“I worked with Franz for years and we’re comfortable with each other’s styles. We bounce ideas off each other all the time,” Summers said. “We stuck to what we know, which is Southern food, and we stayed in that comfort zone.”
For desserts, Summers said the team’s third member, pastry chef Tom Halik from Main Street Grille Café and Bakery in Wake Forest, was the “mastermind” behind their dessert dishes in the contest.
“Tom opened my eyes to what pastries can be,” he said.
Summers said in the beginning, there were some difficulties such as not knowing the layout of the kitchen at the competition site, 214 Martin St., and Summers said the size of the event meant he had to learn a lot about portion control.
“As chefs, we think about price and portion all the time but here, I was cooking 45 birds for 150 plates, so that was a balancing act,” he said.
With Summers and his team winning the Raleigh competition, they will move onto the Battle of Champions, which takes place in November. In addition, Summers and his team won $2,000, handcrafted knives from Ironman Forge, an autographed cookbook written by La Farm Bakery’s Lionel Vatinet and the special red jacket given to competition champions.
Love For Food
Chefs from different teams would meet at the beginning of every day of the competition to talk and introduce themselves to one another over breakfast. Summers said he was honored to meet so many fellow chefs from around the state.
“I’ve been around such great chefs. And with us all being executive chefs, we’re used to directing other people so it was fun being in the kitchen when everyone knew what they were doing,” he said.
With this win on his resumé, Summers said he hopes the competition also brings more attention to his own restaurant, Chef’s Palette.
“It’s not fine dining. It’s a little more casual,” he said. “We serve classical stuff people recognize but with a little twist. I think people in this area like that.”
Summers said the restaurant offers different daily specials and will change up the menu depending on either the day or his creativity.
“It’s a fusion of art, food and music,” he said.
Tickets are currently available for the Battle of Champions in November as well as the final two competitions in the Charlotte and Wilmington regions, going in August and September respectively.
Story by Michael Papich. Photos by Michael Papich and Got To Be NC. Coverage on CaryCitizen is sponsored in part by Waverly Place in Cary.