Gaffer’s cooks Juss Criss, left, and James Stewart are the “dueling chefs” in the Dec. 15 cook-off in the Ocracoke Station. Photo by Laurie Death

By Connie Leinbach

The “Dueling Chefs” cook-off scheduled for tonight (Dec. 22) at 7 p.m. in the Ocracoke Station diner-deli has been canceled because the two chefs who were supposed to compete have not yet returned to the island from an Ocracoke School basketball tournament in South Carolina.

This fundraising event will continue Thursday, Dec. 29, starting at 7 p.m. with two guest cooks vying in an “Iron Chef”-type manner to create the best dish from the surprise protein.

“Last week was a lot of fun and all the dishes were amazingly delicious,” said Laurie Death, who with her husband Sean run the gas station and this fundraiser for WOVV and the Ocracoke Volunteer Fire Department.

“We had good crowd,” Sean said about the 16 spectators.

James Stewart and Juss Criss, who both are cooks at Gaffer’s, were the celebrity chefs.

Sean described how the event works.
The entire store–inventory, coolers, walk-in refrigerators and freezers–is the “pantry.”
The chefs browse through the store to see what’s available to create an appetizer at 7 p.m. for the spectators.

“The appetizer in not judged,” Sean said. “This is for the chefs to learn to get used to how the equipment heats and cooks.”

But as part of the admission fee, patrons get to munch away.

Just-created appetizers are part of the $10 spectator fee. Photo by Laurie Death
Just-created appetizers are part of the $10 spectator fee. Photo by Laurie Death

At 8 p.m., the main cooking begins until 9:30, after which the folks attending cast their votes for the best dish.

Sean said the two men created appetizers of chicken and waffles and chicken cheese wraps. The main ingredient was boneless breast of chicken.

Stewart created seasoned chicken breasts with sliced hard salami covered in mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses on a bed of bow tie pasta with homemade tomato sauce and a side of garlic toast.

Criss created a sweet and sour spicy chicken with white rice with a shredded salad side.

Voters had a tough time deciding which dish was the best, Sean said.

“Some didn’t want to vote, (the dishes) were that good,” Sean said.  But all had to vote and Criss won by “one or two votes,” Sean said.

“It was amazing,” he said. “Both of those dishes belong on a menu somewhere.”

The event raised $160 for the two charities.

After next Thursday’s duel, Sean said he plans to continue the event through the winter.

The gas station’s food prep area was recently renovated for full a full breakfast and lunch service, and Sean, noting the mirror image set up of the new kitchen, thought it would be perfect for a cook-off.

The gas station also has a liquor license, so patrons can enjoy alcoholic beverages during the event and any time.

The final creations. Photo by Laurie Death
Chef James Stewart’s chicken breast creations. Photo by Laurie Death


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