WV Cook-Off History
Planning for the Cast Iron Cook-Off® began in midsummer 2005, coordinated by the Collaborative for the 21st Century Appalachia®. The planning group consisted of Mike Diethorn and Robert Wong from Charleston’s Bridge Road Bistro, Harv Christie from Gourmet Central in Romney, Caryn Gresham of the West Virginia Division of Tourism, Dale Hawkins from the Stonewall Jackson Resort, Greg Atkinson of the West Virginia Department of Education Hospitality and Training (HEAT) program, and Allen Arnold of the Collaborative for the 21st Century Appalachia®.
Several members of the group had actually bandied about the notion of West Virginians participating in some sort of iron chef competition at a trade show in Toronto. However, the idea was quickly forgotten due to the demands of running their respective restaurants.
Since preparing food in cast iron — a traditional cookware — fit so neatly with the Collaborative’s emphasis on reinventing traditional recipes, it made sense for this organization to take on a coordination and leadership role in making the idea a reality. The Cast Iron Cook-Off® would soon become the Collaborative’s signature event.
At one of the earliest planning meetings, it was decided that a primary goal of the cook-off would be to help develop the next generation of West Virginia’s culinary talent. As a result, ProStart students have been integrally involved each year.