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VGCC Culinary students and faculty play multiple roles at Hot Sauce Contest

The eighth annual North Carolina Hot Sauce Contest , held Sept. 13 in downtown Oxford, again featured the Culinary Arts department from Vance-Granville Community College. Not only did students from the program serve up their own spicy treats to festival attendees, but students and faculty members also formed the entire team of judges for the second consecutive year.


It was up to the program’s two instructors, Chef Ross Ragonese (the program head) and Chef John Boretti, and two students, Randy Wilfong of Henderson and Jacob Deweese of Creedmoor, to determine the winners of the contest, which drew more than 100 diverse entries from sauce-makers across North Carolina. The judges awarded a total of $4,500 in prize money to recognize hot sauces and barbecue sauces in a variety of categories.


Charlotte-based Race City Sauce Works swept the hot sauce categories, taking home the “Meet the Heat Award” for “High Noon” as well as the Most Unique and Critic’s Choice awards for their Sake and Kumquat Sauce. Meanwhile, the VGCC barbecue sauce judges named Cary-based Outta The Park’s original sauce both the “Best Tomato Based BBQ Sauce” and the “Best Mild BBQ Sauce.” The prize for “Best Vinegar Style Sauce” went to George’s of Nashville, N.C., for their original sauce. Abbey’s Amazing Honey Mustard Sauce by Black Dog Gourmet of Greensboro won for “Best Mustard Based Sauce.” The “Best Hot BBQ Sauce” was Holly Springs-based Grill Master Chuck’s “Holy Habanero” and Giddy Pig’s from King, N.C., was named “Most Unique BBQ Sauce.”


While their classmates and instructors were “feeling the heat” to pick the winners, other Culinary students were “bringing the heat” with two dishes, both of which proved very popular with customers: buffalo chicken sliders with blue cheese drizzle and scallions, and “Three-Alarm Chili” with pepper jack cheese and scallions.


“The Hot Sauce Contest is always fun and represents a strong community partnership between our program and our ‘home’ town,” said Ragonese. VGCC’s two-year Culinary Arts degree program is based at the Masonic Home for Children in Oxford. The chef noted that participation in the event provides his students with additional real-world culinary and customer service experience, as well as increased visibility for the program and the college on the statewide level.


This year’s contest attracted more than 12,000 visitors to downtown Oxford, with more than 70 different vendors participating. Spearheading the event as always was Julia Overton, owner of Stovall’s Gifts and a member of the VGCC Culinary Arts program advisory committee.


For more information about the Culinary program , call Chef Ross Ragonese at (919) 690-0312 .


Above:  From left, VGCC Culinary Arts program head Chef Ross Ragonese, student Randy Wilfong of Henderson, and instructor Chef John Boretti taste sauces and mark their scores while serving as judges at the eighth annual North Carolina Hot Sauce Contest in Oxford on Sept. 13, 2014. (VGCC photo)


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