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Students are cook-off champions once again

I'm just returning from another mouthwatering weekend at the Cast Iron Cook-off at The Greenbrier, and I've got to say the state's culinary future looks very bright.

For the second year in a row, a culinary program from one of the state's colleges beat a host of celebrated restaurants and chefs to be named Grand Champion.

Pierpont Community & Technical College in Fairmont was this year's big winner, following the footsteps of Huntington's Mountwest Community & Technical College last year.

Competing in a separate "Throwdown" with other past cook-off Grand Champions, Mountwest came out on top in that highly contested event.

There already are some pretty impressive restaurants and chefs around the state. But if this competition is any indication, there are even bigger and better things coming to a plate near you in the future. Walking around the judge's table, drooling over dish after dish, it was impossible for me to tell a professional chef's entry from a student-created one.

Congratulations to all winners from this year's competition, which celebrates the use of local food and the farmers who produce it:

  • Best Use of Cast Iron: The Bank Food and Drink from Pearisburg, Va., and Panorama at the Peak from Berkeley Springs (tie).
  • Best Teamwork: Diogi's, Fayetteville
  • Whistle While You Work: Panorama at the Peak
  • Best Table Presentation: Diogi's
  • Best Use of Appalachian Produce: Laurel Vista Farm from Somerset, Pa.
  • Best Use of Protein: WVU Next Generation
  • Best Use of Value Added: WVU Erickson Alumni Center
  • Best Single Course: The Greenbrier Golf Classic
  • Best Menu: Pierpont
  • Overall Champion: Pierpont
  • In honor of Sunday's big game, a third facet of this year's cook-off was a "Culinary Super Bowl" pitting a West Virginia team led by Chef Ann Hart (Provence Market, Bridgeport) against teams composed of chefs from Abington, Va., and Asheville, N.C. In that battle, Asheville (a great food town, by the way) came out on top.

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  • And BolognaGate continues...

    "Dear Food Guy, my wife and I were amazed at your article," wrote Danny Anderson of Charleston. "Didn't see anything that resembled a hot bologna sandwich. Here is the real deal...

    "You get your bologna, preferably sliced by the deli at about a little more than a fourth of an inch thick. Then, without frying it, put it in a cooking pot with Heinz ketchup (enough to cover the bologna) and your choice of hot sauce, Texas Pete or Tabasco. It all depends on how hot and spicy you want it as to how much you put on the bologna.

    "You want to let it cook till it simmers. Get some jumbo round buns, slice some onions and put the bologna on the sandwich. If you want to use BBQ sauce then it would be BBQ Bologna, not Hot Bologna," he said, adding an "LOL" for good measure.

    And along those same lines ...

    "The operative word in any hot bologna recipe is HOT! Fat Bob's Roadhouse has a great hot bologna sandwich," wrote John Messer. And he should know. He works in the service department at the Harley-Davidson shop on the premises on MacCorkle Avenue in Spring Hill.

    "Deep fry a thick (one-fourth to one-half inch) slice of bologna to caramelize the meat, dip in Winger's brand hot sauce and serve on a sandwich bun with cold, not grilled, sliced onion for a little added texture. It'll knock your socks off!" he said.

    "I do remember the hot bologna from Ross' Pool Room (recipe in last week's column) was excellent, as was Boogie's Bar & Grill, Junior's and A&W on the West Side, along with the Smokehouse. All were great...

    "A hot bologna sandwich is a West Virginia specialty. Down South, they just serve a fried bologna sandwich," he said. "No comparison."

    Reader Okey Pickrell agreed with John and several others who sang the praises of Ross' Pool Room.

    "I started eating hot bologna when I was in junior high school in Dunbar in 1949 and have found that the best were at Ross', Jr. Hickinbottom's Pool Hall, The Plaza Lounge and Boogie's. The man who made them was named Haden and he worked in all four places.

    "You would get a slice of bologna about a half-inch thick, fried brown on both sides, dipped in a pan of his special hot sauce and placed on a large sesame seed bun," he said.

    "Today I buy my hot bologna at Mr. G's, located in Cross Lanes near the post office on Big Tyler Mountain Road. I also like a slice of onion on it. I am now 79 and still enjoying my hot bologna."

    Contact writer Steven Keith at or 304-348-1721. You can also follow him on Facebook and Pinterest as "DailyMail FoodGuy," on Twitter as "DMFoodGuy" or read his blog at


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