Charleston’s fiercest battle didn’t happen in a stadium this weekend, but in the amphitheater at the Culinary Institute of Charleston for the Iron Chef Competition. The Taste of Charleston event kicked off the weekend with four of the Holy City’s most celebrated chefs: Nathan Thurston from the Ocean Room at the Sanctuary and Kevin Johnson from Anson versus Simon Andrews from the Francis Marion Hotel and Kevin Mitchell, a former restaurateur and current instructor at the Culinary Institute.

Prizes and pride were at stake as the chefs were given 45 minutes to create three to five dishes using balsamic vinegar as their main ingredient. With legendary judges like Franz Meier and Horst Semper of international culinary fame, along with local foodies Marion Sullivan and Darcy Shankland of Charleston magazine, the array of dishes presented was of the highest quality. From Firefly Vodka and balsamic cocktails to local red snapper sliced thinly, marinated in white balsamic vinegar and served as a crudo with grapes, the chefs were encouraged to use as many neighborhood purveyors as possible for their ingredients.

Emceed by ABC News 4’s meteorologist Tom Crawford, Charleston Grill’s Mickey Bakst, and the Institute’s Dean Michael Saboe, the event was fast-paced and the audience members even got to participate in the tasting. The aromas alone were worth the price of admission, and all ticket sales went to Ronald McDonald House, Hollings Cancer Center, and the Charleston County School District Science Materials Resource Center.

After nearly an hour of salivating, sampling, and much careful deliberation, the winners were announced and Team Andrews and Mitchell went home with cash prizes, trophies, and various sundries. The Iron Chef Competition undoubtedly was a fun, delectable launch to the Taste of Charleston weekend full of events showcasing the culinary destination that our beautiful city has become.

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