Small bites: Getting wacky at Whacked

TOUGH COMPETITION: At last year's event, chef Joe Mitchell of Chestnut restaurant worked on prying open the jaws of a cooked lamb's head — the competition's secret ingredient. Photo by Pat Barcas

Secret ingredients, a shared pantry and some shenanigans will all be in play at this year’s Whacked cooking competition. The theme for the upcoming event, which is part of Foodservice & Restaurant Supply Asheville’s annual open house, is “farm to table.” If history is any indication, the absurd will also be in play. “Last year it was a beach theme,” says Sheila Bivins, general manager of FRS Asheville. “The chefs had to hula hoop and sing beach music songs and wear a fish on their heads.”

As in the Food Network television show “Chopped,” a mystery ingredient will play a role in the competition. Laura Oliver, the assistant general manager at FRS Asheville, will determine what the competitors will have to contend with. “She’s pretty sadistic at times,” says Bivins. “Last year she had frozen lamb heads for the entrée.”

Michelle Bailey of Smokey Park Supper Club, Chris Townsend of Lex 18, Anthony Cerrato of Strada and Matthew Miner of Renaissance Hotel Asheville are leading the four teams at this year’s event. Teammates will include trainees from the Green Opportunities Kitchen Ready culinary program, food service directors from area schools and other local volunteers. Bivins points out that the makeup of the teams themselves is completely random. “Unlike these TV shows, we tell the chefs who their team members are by drawing names out of a hat,” she says.

The winning team will earn a commercial refrigerator for the local charity of its choice — Helpmate, the Asheville Humane Society, the WNC Advocacy League and Bee City USA are all represented this year.

Four area county school systems — Buncombe, Henderson, Haywood and Burke — have the opportunity to benefit from the event as well. The winning school district will be awarded $500 earmarked as a scholarship for a selected senior interested in a seeking a culinary degree.

Bivins urges the public to attend, noting that over 50 food industry manufacturers will be on hand with products on display. “Anybody that has anything to do with commercial food service — restaurants, coffee shops, bakeries, breweries, hospitals, schools, prisons, hotels and general foodies — should all come,” she says.

FRS Asheville’s open house begins at 9 a.m. Tuesday, Sept. 13, at 23 Asheland Ave. Whacked begins at 1 p.m. The event is free and open to the public. For details, visit

Sandor Katz at Rhubarb

Chef John Fleer will host “fermentation revivalist” Sandor Ellix Katz on Sunday, Sept. 11, for a fermentation demonstration in his downtown event space followed by Sunday Supper at Rhubarb. The author of Wild Fermentation as well as the James Beard Foundation Book Award winner The Art of Fermentation, Katz has led hundreds of workshops around the world. The upcoming demonstration will offer techniques on how to ferment a variety of vegetables.

The event begins at 5 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 11, at Rhubarb, 7 S. Pack Square. Tickets are $35 for the cooking demo, $40 for the Sunday Supper and $70 for a combined package. For tickets, visit For more on Katz, visit

Pickle Pickin’ — A Preservation Celebration

Also on Sunday, Sept. 11, Sandor Katz will share fermentation tips at the North Carolina Natural Products Association’s Pickle Pickin’ — A Preservation Celebration at Asheville Food Park. In addition, the free event will feature workshops by local food preservation experts on canning, vegetable ferments, preserved fish, herbal vinegars, kombucha brewing and more. Other highlights include a silent auction and a pickle and preserves competition that is open to both the public and manufacturers. Guests will be able to buy $5 tasting tickets in advance or at the event to sample the contest entries.

The Pickle Pickin’ happens 2-6 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 11, at Asheville Food Park, 2019 Amboy Road. Admission is free, tasting tickets are $5. For details and to register for the pickle and jam competition, visit

Curate cookbook tops list

Katie Button, chef and owner of Curate, recently added cookbook writer to her resumé. Curate: Authentic Spanish Food from an American Kitchen is set to be released on Tuesday, Oct. 11. The book has already made’s list of Biggest New Cookbooks of 2016. The web publication notes the book’s focus on presenting traditional Spanish recipes for the American home cook.

Visit for’s full list.

Argentinian Asado at Hickory Nut Gap Farm

Eric Scheffer, executive chef and owner of Vinnie’s Neighborhood Italian, will prepare empanadas and four different types of meats — sausage, short ribs, skirt steak and brisket — in authentic Argentine asado style at a Thursday, Sept. 15, dinner at Hickory Nut Gap Farm. Traditional salads and desserts will also be served. Scheffer, who produces his own wine in Argentina, will include glasses of Bodega Gratia with the meal.

The Argentinian Asado Dinner starts at 6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 15, at 57 Sugar Hollow Road, Fairview. Tickets are $96 per person, including tax and gratuity. For details and tickets visit,

Order at Orchard

A new website,, offers locals a single online spot to find and order food from multiple Asheville restaurants and businesses. Founder Thomas Cecil compares it to Trip Advisor for food, adding, “You can interact with the business and order directly from their Orchard web page.” The site allows restaurants to make updates to their menus and encourages Orchard users to refer businesses to join.

Visit to learn more.


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About Thomas Calder
Thomas Calder received his MFA in Fiction from the University of Houston's Creative Writing Program. His writing has appeared in Gulf Coast, the Miracle Monocle, Juked and elsewhere. His debut novel, The Wind Under the Door, is now available.

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One thought on “Small bites: Getting wacky at Whacked

  1. If you don’t already, and have not experienced, you’re going to fall in love with the food and flavors of ERIC SCHEFFER, executive chef and owner of Vinnie’s Neighborhood Italian.

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