Appalachia’s own “Iron Chef”

The Cast Iron Cook-Off is the Appalachian region’s premier gourmet culinary competition, and this year it’s getting a fresh new spin.

The Cast-Iron Cook-Off challenges culinary teams to use farm-to-table ingredients to re-interpret traditional recipes using cast-iron cookware— a distinctly Appalachian kitchen staple since the frontier days.

In the past, the state’s most prominent chefs have led each cooking team, but this year the competitors may come a little hungrier… for the notoriety of a win, at least! These are the rising stars of the industry, looking to make their mark— the ripe new talent who’ve already been making waves, even though they’ve all been in the ‘biz as an executive chef or restaurant owner less than 3 years.

Watch these newcomer chefs sizzle and sear their way to glory at the 11th annual Cast Iron Cook-Off, which is free and open to the public Feb. 5 and 6 at the Charleston Marriott Town Center. The contest is the centerpiece of the West Virginia Winter Food Festival, so you can make a weekend of it.

Meet the competitors

The 5 promising chefs going head-to-head have a lot to gain from taking home the prestigious title, so prepare to see some passion on those plates.

2016’s rising stars:

  • After touring the country by motorcycle as a food travel blogger, “Vagabond Chef” Matt Welsch has settled in as owner and Executive Chef at the Vagabond Kitchen.
  • Executive Chef Jason Fleck brings his homestyle tastes and creative SoCal flair to the table at the 1863 Grill, where his eclectic skills perfect everything from BBQ to sushi.
  • Sea-foodie and Executive Sous Chef Scott MacGregor brings his Maryland roots and “comfort fusion” flavor to the hills of Snowshoe Mountain Resort and the halls of the cook-off.
  • Expect simple, well-balanced tastes from Buffalo Diner owner and Executive Chef Stephen Owens, who has refined his style since he first cut his teeth in this competition as a team cook.
  • Executive Chef Robert Osborn is looking for a ‘wow’ from every dish he crafts. The mastermind behind the Mountaineer Casino & Resort’s cuisine goes big with bold tastes.

Get a Taste

For those of you who want to do more than smell all this food, you’ll have 2 opportunities to break out your napkin:

  • The Tastes from the Mountains Dine Around buffet Friday night will feature a gourmet menu of New Appalachian fare made from virtually all West Virginia ingredients.
  • The Cast Iron Cook-Off Small Plates is a more low-key option Saturday, serving up smaller dishes specially prepared by the chefs.

Pair those bites with craft beer or wine sampler flights of West Virginia’s best.

Dine Around tickets | Small Plates tickets

More from the cast iron

While this year’s Cast-Iron competitors whip up a farm-fresh meal for the judges, last year’s junior champion will get the unique chance to face off with 2015’s overall winner in a Farm2Table Throw down!

Throughout the event, you can also watch live cooking demos in the ballroom. Maybe you’ll learn a thing or two and take home some mountain flavor!

You can even see some real rookie talent at the Junior Cast Iron Cook-Off, where high school culinary and agricultural students test their skills.

Get tickets >


This post was last updated on July 16, 2020