Iron Fork 2014 is Next Week!'s Iron Fork time again. This is the seventh year for the event and I've been nearly every year. I love Iron Fork; not only do I get to watch talented chefs in action, I get to sample tasty selections from a lot of local restaurants. And these restaurants always bring their best bites to Iron Fork sampling, too. It's where I first had Cupcake Collection cupcakes and Perl Catering's caramelized onion bisque. Anyhoo, this year's competitors are:

Matt Bolus — Chef, The 404 Kitchen, named a 2014 semifinalist for Best New Restaurant in America by the James Beard Foundation. I haven't had a chance to write it up yet, but Mr. Eats and I celebrated his birthday at The 404 Kitchen and had a fantastic meal. The burrata  is to die for.

Chris Carter & James Peisker — Co-owners, Porter Road Butcher. Listed as one of the five best artisanal butcher shops in America by Bon Appetit in 2012. I'm not a customer of these guys, but Mr. Eats has had breakfast from PRB West several times and gives the meats and the pastries two licked-clean thumbs up.

Kristen Gregory — Executive chef, Firefly Grille. Winner, 2013-14 season premiere of Chopped. I have never been to Firefly Grille, which is tucked into a little corner in Green Hills, but I have heard good things.

Hal Holden-Bache — Executive chef, Lockeland Table, named a 2013 semifinalist for Best New Restaurant in America by the James Beard Foundation.

The premise is pretty cool: there are teams of two (each chef gets to have a sous chef assist during the competition) and each team must prepare a dish based on a secret ingredient. Last year’s secret ingredient was maple syrup, which winner Jess Benefield used to prepare a butter-poached New York strip with a green Sriracha-chimichurri, coconut powder and maple syrup soy sauce. That was accompanied with a papaya salad topped with maple syrup candied pecans and a shrimp toast with a sweet maple chili sauce. That dish also won Chef Benefield (now of Two Ten Jack, an excellent izakaya in East Nashville) a spot at the coveted judges’ table for this year’s event. I’ve got no early intel on what it may be, but I’m hoping it is something exotic and green, like the year it was fiddlehead ferns.

While watching the competition, you can enjoy drinks from Blue Chair Bay Rum, Four Roses Bourbon, Three Olives Vodka, and Boodles Gin as well as beers from Newcastle, Heineken, and Dos Equis. And there will be more than 20 restaurants and artisan food companies sampling from their menus, including Amerigo, Bar Louie, Boca Loca Cantina, Cafe Fundamental, Drake’s, Jim and Nick’s, Lucky Bamboo, Mere Bulles, Music City Tippler, Nashville Farmers’ Market, Nashville Jam Company, Olive and Sinclair, Opryland Hotel, Qdoba, Salsa, The District and Two Bits.

You can read my round-up of the sampled bites at last year's event on the Bites blog archive.

Tickets are available online for $45 per person, with all proceeds benefiting Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee. If the event does not sell out in advance (it has in the past), tickets may be available at the door.

Iron Fork
Wednesday, April 16
6 to 9:30 p.m.
The Commodore Ballroom at Vanderbilt University
310 25th Ave. S.
Tickets (for people 21 and older only): $45

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