CHARLESTON, W.Va. — On Saturday, February 6, 2016 Chef Jason Fleck of the 1863 Grill in Elkins, W.Va., hit the road and headed to the Marriott Town Center in Charleston to compete in the 11th Annual Cast Iron Cook Off. Fleck would lead a team, including a sous chef from his restaurant, a student from a ProStart culinary program, and five amateur volunteers, against teams from four other restaurants and resorts from across the state. At day’s end, Fleck’s team would find themselves taking home four awards, including being named Grand Champions.
The event is organized by the Collaborative for the 21st Century Appalachia and its focus is to create a New Appalachian Cuisine® that builds on our cultural roots in terms of recipes, folklore, utensils and ingredients, while encouraging use of local ingredients and building Farm-to-Table relationships. The rules required that the chefs create three-course menus reflecting a modern turn on Appalachian cuisine while preparing at least one item from each course in a cast iron cooking vessel.
Chef Fleck’s menu featured a first course of trout cakes served with a whole grain mustard sauce and topped with an arugula salad, a second course of West Virginia raised lamb with a mint fig crust and port wine reduction served atop wild mushroom risotto, and a dessert course of a sour cream pound cake topped with a moonshine berry compote. After rave reviews from the three professional chef judges, Chef Fleck and the 1863 Grill brought home the Grand Champion win by a close margin.
In addition to the Overall Grand Champion, chefs vie for Best Overall Menu, Best Use of Appalachian Protein, Best Use of Appalachian Value-Added Products, Best Use of Cast Iron, and many other honors. Fleck and the 1863 Grill captured three of these supplemental awards. First, they claimed Best Use of Cast Iron for using an enameled cast iron dutch oven to bake their sour cream pound cake dessert. They also claimed Best Use of Appalachian/Regional Protein for their use of West Virginia raised lamb in their main course. They also were awarded Best Single Course for their trout cakes, beating out 14 other individual dishes for the honor. Judges described the trout cakes as “an absolutely perfect combination of flavors.”
This was Chef Jason’s first time competing at a professional level, despite having been cooking professionally for 20 years. “I am absolutely thrilled,” said Fleck. “I went into the competition as a learning experience and to raise awareness of the restaurant. I went in with an open mind and just tried to have fun, and am so happy that my menu was able to shine and bring home so many awards.”
Chef Jason and the 1863 Grill will return to the cook off next year to compete in the throw down competition that pits the winning Cast Iron Cook Off team against the winning Cast Iron Cook Off Junior team from the previous year.
The 1863 Grill will feature the menu that brought home so many prizes as a special at the restaurant on an upcoming date. You can follow the 1863 Grill on Facebook for details and other specials and events, including their series of winter cooking classes.