Taste. Originality. Presentation.

Sundae Horn

Taste. Originality. Presentation.
Photo by Andrea Weigl
The Back Porch Restaurant took 2nd place at the NC Seafood Festival's Cooking with the Chefs competition!

Last weekend, Daphne Bennink and her assistant chef, Liz Gallery, competed in the first annual cooking competition at the North Carolina Seafood Festival in Morehead City. They proudly represented both the Back Porch Restaurant and Ocracoke. 

The competition was divided into two rounds. In the first round, 8 chefs from regional restaurants cooked for a panel of judges.

The chefs were provided with a list of available produce and pantry items they could be sure to use, but the seafood component was a secret until the competition began. 

Daphne said she was a little surprised by the first round's seafood selection of sea trout. But she and Liz had talked over the possibilities beforehand and had some ideas worked out and raw ingredients ready. They quickly decided to prepare the trout "a la meuniere, with butter, tomatoes, lemon juice and wine."

Taste. Originality. Presentation.
Photo by Andre Weigl
To accompany the fish, Daphne and Liz added pan-sauteed potatoes with garlic, and a warm, green-vegetable slaw. 

They made five plates of the trout dish for the judges, and it must have been tasty some because they were voted into the final round with one other restaurant.

Phase II of Cooking with the Chefs brought the Back Porch up against chef Jason Smith of the Black Pelican Restaurant in Kitty Hawk. 

This was a people's choice contest, and the chefs prepared 25-30 plates of their second recipe. Daphne and Liz seared shrimp with a lime cilantro aioli, and paired it with a corn griddle cake and tomato tartar. 

Taste. Originality. Presentation.
Photo by Jessica Hardin

"Everything was made on the spot, from scratch," Daphne said. "We were working with a time limit, and we were in the zone where every second counted. We were putting the last garnish on the plate as they called 'time.'"

Both rounds of recipes were judged on taste, originality, and presentation, while the chefs were judged on showmanship. 

"The hardest part for me was that I had a microphone on," said Daphne. "The emcees were having to fill the time, talking to me, asking about my background, and I was answering into the microphone, then trying to talk to Liz off the microphone about what we were doing."

Daphne credits the "Top Chef" competitions hosted for fun by Ocracoke friends Adam Burleson and Zoi Tsousis as a "very helpful" experience. 

Taste. Originality. Presentation.
Photo by Jessica Hardin

"That was all about cooking within a time frame," she said, and she was glad she'd done that before the real pressure of the seafood festival contest. 

All in all, it was a really good time.

"The people in charge of the seafood festival were so welcoming, and accommodating, and friendly. It was a nicely organized event," she said. 

Stephanie McIntyre, executive director of the Seafood Festival, was very happy with the first Cooking with the Chefs competition.

"We were extremely pleased to have highly skilled and well renowned chefs from all over North Carolina performing and sharing their best with all of our attendees," she said. "The competition was always friendly but fierce as each chef brought their best to the Cooking with the Chefs tent."

Taste. Originality. Presentation.
Photo courtesy of NC Seafood Festival

The event was a hit with the audience and is sure to draw an even bigger crowd in its second year. Chef Jason Smith will return in 2014 to defend his title.

Meanwhile, visitors to Ocracoke can dine at the Back Porch and sample some of the great cooking it's famous for. 

"I have eaten at the Back Porch myself," said McIntyre, "and after the first bite I knew we had to include Daphne on our list of distinguished chefs! Her restaurant has a perfect atmosphere of restful Ocracoke mixed with high class culinary fare. We were thrilled that she was able to join us this year."

The Back Porch Restaurant will serve dinner nightly from 5:00-9:00pm through October. Don't miss Tapas Tuesdays! Starting in November, they'll be open Wednesday through Saturday. 

Taste. Originality. Presentation.


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