Rather than spending months crossing Haywood County’s choice eateries off their list of places to go, culinary enthusiasts can get a taste of each all at once at an annual gala at The Gateway Club.
The Haywood County Chamber of Commerce will host its 8th Annual Mélange of the Mountains on March 26 at The Gateway Club on Church Street in Waynesville. Attendees will be able to sample food and drink from the menus of area restaurants.
“The refinement of the culinary arts in our region is why cuisine in Western North Carolina is current and delicious,” said Michael Fahey, president of the Western North Carolina Culinary Association and head judge of this year’s competition, in a news release. “Mélange of the Mountains gives the talented chefs of Waynesville a great venue to share their creations.”
The participating restaurants are a mixture of newbies and old pros like Nico’s Café in Waynesville.
“We do well at it,” said Charlene Smith, an employee at Nico’s. “It’s also fun.”
The competition can be pretty fierce with some heavy hitters signing up to present their best dishes. Other eateries participating include Harrah’s Cherokee Casino, the Waynesville Inn, Anthony Wayne’s, Frog Level Brewing Company and Sunburst Trout Company.
“I think (the competition is) very, very good,” Charlene Smith, an employee at Nico’s Café. “I think everyone brings their A-game.”
Co-worker Courtney Pottenger agreed, adding that the contest is “stressful” but “fun.”
Nico’s Café has competed every year and has placed in at least one category each year. There are several categories that each restaurant can compete in: meat, salad, seafood, soup, vegetarian, dessert and people’s choice. The most coveted prize is the Award for Culinary Excellence, which is given to the restaurant with the highest scoring dish.
“We (Waynesville) have very good food for a small town,” Smith said, calling it “5-star quality food.”
The event also promotes creativity. Nico’s Café crafts unique dishes, which it later features on its menu. Last year, the café created the Courtney salad, a strawberry and candied pecan salad that garnered a podium ranking in the salad category.
Although Mélange is on their minds throughout the year, Smith said that Nico’s owner Michele Pipitone usually spends a day deciding what recipes give the café the best chance at bringing home a first place title.
Neither Nico’s Café nor Sid’s on Main, a new restaurant in Canton, knew exactly what dishes they would showcase at this year’s Mélange in the Mountains.
Sid’s on Main owner Sid Truesdale said this year will be more about people trying and enjoying his restaurant’s food rather than winning accolades.
“Hopefully if they do (like the food), they’ll come see us,” Truesdale said.
Go have a taste for yourself
The Haywood County Chamber of Commerce will host its eighth Annual Mélange of the Mountains from 5:30–8:30 p.m., March 26, at The Gateway Club.
Tickets are $35 for chamber members and $40 for non-members. The chamber will also have VIP upgraded tickets available for $60, which includes early entry into the competition to view the Chefs in action. Tickets are limited.