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Local chef wins competition

Michelle Bailey (in black hat) preps a dish during the Got to be NC Competition in Asheville. Michelle Bailey (in black hat) preps a dish during the Got to be NC Competition in Asheville.

ASHEVILLE — Michelle Bailey pumped a triumphant fist in the air as "Got To Be NC Competition" host Jimmy Crippen announced that she had become the first woman chef to lead a team to victory since the series started in 2012.

Bailey, the chef at Season's at the Highland Lake Inn in Flat Rock, won the close battle with Asheville's Sam Etheridge of Ambrozia Bar + Bistro with the dessert course.

Eight chefs from Asheville, Boone and Flat Rock competed in the seven-dinner series that began March 10 and concluded Monday night at the Lioncrest at Biltmore in Asheville. Diners watched tensely as the final scores and numbers posted for each dish. Bailey triumphed in the close battle by almost three points. The chef and teammates Stephen Hertz and Todd Mallin took home a $2000 check, a handmade chef knife by Ironman Forge in Charlotte, and the coveted red chef's jacket only a Competition Dining winner can wear.

The final Fire on the Rock battle challenged the chefs to use two featured ingredients, Lusty Munk® Mustard and Beulah's Bavarian Pretzels, both based in Asheville. The chefs are not told what the featured ingredient of the night will be until noon on the day they compete.

MichelleBaileyWinningDessertMichelle Bailey's winning dessert was Chipotle Mustard Chocolate Cake, Buttermilk Altar Boy Ice Cream, Beulah's Bavarian Pretzel Tuile, Fizzy Blackberry and Lemon Relish, Lusty Monk Raspberry Coulis and Salted Pretzel Caramel Sauce.Both chefs rose to the occasion. Bailey's highest scoring dish of the evening was dessert: Chipotle Mustard Chocolate Cake, Buttermilk Altar Boy Ice Cream, Beulah's Bavarian Pretzel Tuile, Fizzy Blackberry and Lemon Relish, Lusty Monk Raspberry Coulis and Salted Pretzel Caramel Sauce.

For Etheridge, the top-scoring dish was Lobster Sausage, Arugula, Citrus Honey Mustard, Beulah's Bavarian Pretzel Beer-Battered Smoked Shrimp, Chipotle Mustard Tartar Sauce, Slaw, Blue Crab Cheesecake with Pretzel Crust and Champagne Mustard Cream.

(See complete scores and dishes at http://www.competitiondining.com/results/battle-ambrozia-v-seasons.)

Culinary and professional judges for the evening included Charlotte-based journalist, caterer and cooking school instructor Heidi Billotto; Chef David Ryba from the Inn on Biltmore Estate; and Chef Adam Hayes, formerly with the Red Stag Grill at the Grand Bohemian Hotel in Asheville. Hayes is the reigning Final Fire 2013 Champion/Fire on the Rock Champion 2013; he will soon lead the culinary team at Barnsley Resort in Adairsville, Ga.

Official event blogger Ashley Hayes joined the judges as a non-voting guest. Her summary of the event will post at http://afashionfoodie.com/2014/03/11/competition-dining-fire-on-the-rock/.

Bailey will compete in November in Raleigh at Final Fire: Battle of the Champions against the Got To Be NC Competition Dining Champions from Wilmington, Charlotte, the Triad and the Triangle.