A little competition is healthy! So, if you have a favorite restaurant that uses local ingredients, please encourage the owner/chef to enter The Best Dish in North Carolina contest, which this year has expanded by adding regional categories. The contest, run by the marketing division of the state Department of Agriculture, started six years ago but hasn’t taken off in a big way, I think in part because it’s not run by locavore-loving folks and because said folks aren’t fans of Ag departments, which tend to favor big companies and conventional/industrial farming.
Hey, I can relate. But this year, I say give the state a chance. They’re really trying. Elevate the entries and you’ll elevate the contest. Also, I think the judges, who dine anonymously, should be announced after the fact because they’re an important component. What say you, Ag Dept? And one more thing. In the past, places that whipped up locally sourced dishes only to enter the contest but not as a matter of course, have placed, even won. I think a firm commitment to local should weigh heavily in the voting. (Let me add that several finalists and winners, including Watts Grocery, Four Square, Il Palio Ristorante, Ashten’s Restaurant, and Yancey House Restaurant, are committed year-round.)
Deadline for entries is March 31; dishes are put on the menu for one month from anywhere from May to September. So encourage your favorite chefs to enter, and let’s go collard to collard to make this a truly local-minded contest.