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Chef Norton goes from one challenge to another

By Garrett Mitchell, Staff Reporter
Published on Friday, August 21, 2015

• Meet Chef Norton here.

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Chef Damion Norton prepares his meals for his competition versus Henry's Smokehouse.
 

Garrett Mitchell

Chef Damion Norton prepares his meals for his competition versus Henry's Smokehouse.

 



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Cactus Creek Coffee Rubbed Heritage Farm Cheshire Pork Butt Pulled Pork, Oil and VinegarJalapeño and Mango Vegetable Slaw, Sundried Tomato Jalapeño and Mango BBQ Sauce.
 

Garrett Mitchell

Cactus Creek Coffee Rubbed Heritage Farm Cheshire Pork Butt Pulled Pork, Oil and VinegarJalapeño and Mango Vegetable Slaw, Sundried Tomato Jalapeño and Mango BBQ Sauce.

 



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Oil and Vinegar Peach Vinegar Braised Certified Angus Beef Brand Bavette, Oil and Vinegar Basil Oil-Infused Mashed Potatoes.
 
 

Garrett Mitchell

Oil and Vinegar Peach Vinegar Braised Certified Angus Beef Brand Bavette, Oil and Vinegar Basil Oil-Infused Mashed Potatoes.

 

 



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Oil and Vinegar Lime Riesling Oil Pound Cake, Oil and Vinegar Elderflower Apple Lime Vinegar Macerated Berries, Elderflower Apple Lime Vinegar Caramel

Garrett Mitchell

Oil and Vinegar Lime Riesling Oil Pound Cake, Oil and Vinegar Elderflower Apple Lime Vinegar Macerated Berries, Elderflower Apple Lime Vinegar Caramel



Cooking is fun for Damion Norton.

As the Professional Catering owner was introduced to the diners at Larkin's Sawmill following his quarterfinal match in the Competition Dining Series on Wednesday, he circled the room, high-fiving patrons and fellow chefs with an ever-present smile.

"When people come to me with that energy and that 'well done chef’, I fulfilled that need they needed for that evening," said Norton. "It's just cut and dry like that."

Norton did not advance out of the quarterfinal round where he was competing with Chef Bo Wilder of Henry's Smokehouse. Both chefs created a variety of colorfully flavorful dishes.

"The best came out on top," Norton said. "Believe it or not, it's all a learning experience at the end of the day. I was in the kitchen not only with my team, but another very talented team, just kind of paying attention to what they're doing in conjunction with what we're doing."

Competition Dining Series is patterned after Iron Chef with one competitor advancing out of a head-to-head battle in the single elimination format. Chefs may not cook any item on their own restaurant's menu and must use ingredients given to them on the day of competition. No written recipes may be used and a secret ingredient, only revealed on the day of competition, must be incorporated into all prepared dishes.

Wednesday's secret ingredient was different oil and vinegar flavor combinations.

Norton's three dishes were:

• Cactus Creek Coffee Rubbed Heritage Farm Cheshire Pork Butt Pulled Pork, Oil and VinegarJalapeño and Mango Vegetable Slaw, Sundried Tomato Jalapeño and Mango BBQ Sauce.

• Oil and Vinegar Peach Vinegar Braised Certified Angus BeefBrand Bavette, Oil and VinegarBasil Oil-Infused Mashed Potatoes.

• Oil and Vinegar Lime Riesling Oil Pound Cake, Oil and Vinegar Elderflower Apple Lime Vinegar Macerated Berries, Elderflower Apple Lime Vinegar Caramel.

Chef Norton said his beef dish was the most difficult to prepare with the secret oil and vinegar ingredient.

"Because of how they presented the oil and vinegar to us we had to try to infuse it into what we were doing," Norton said. "It was hard to get those flavors to come up to the top with the type of meat I was presented with. That was a challenging part of it. I think overall the flavors were balanced and it tasted great."

Following the six course meal, Norton and Wilder were presented to the crowd who showered each with applause.

The winner was determined by a weighted ranking of each course on a one to five-point scale. Votes consisted of diners' input and those of other chefs in attendance. The diners' votes counted for 70 percent of the final score, compared to 30 percent for the professionals.

Norton finished with a weighted average of 19.3 and Wilder finished at 29.5.

"Greenville's eyes should be open to where their chef community is going," Norton said. "We've reached a certain plateau now where there's other competitions that are going to follow this one. This is the direction a lot of big cities go in and now and we've arrived at this point. It's here. Not only myself, but Greenville needs to realize the direction our food market is going."

Norton's direction is helping people through his food. With his experience at Competition Dining Series behind him, Norton will embark on another journey, teaching children how to cook.

Norton will open Kids de'Cuisine in September, his culinary school for children. It is Norton's hope that it can give kids a direction in the kitchen that he never had.

"I know when I was younger I didn't have a structure," he said. "If I could have been introduced to something like that at a young age I would have been further ahead. Not all kids like karate and not all kids like playing pee wee football and basketball.

“You have that select group of kids that just like being in the kitchen and I want to open up a safe environment where they can explore that part of their lives and further their future."

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