RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- The BugFest Critter Cook-off at Raleigh's North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences has always been one of the Triangle's most novel annual events, but the idea of cooking with insects is gradually becoming more mainstream. In fact, several New York City restaurants are leading the trend of incorporating crickets and ants into menu items.
Triangle restaurants may be next to serve insects after the 2018 Critter Cook-off, which serves as the kickoff event to BugFest, a celebration of insects at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences.
"Crickets have three times more protein per ounce than beef," said Stephanie Wear of The Nature Conservancy and one of the cook-off judges. She says crickets are full of vitamins and minerals too. "Crickets are the next superfood," Wear said.
Chefs from Tonbo Ramen in Raleigh and buKu Wake Forest competed for the coveted Critter Cook-off championship plaque using meal worms, super worms, and crickets.
Chefs prepare an appetizer, entree, and dessert for four judges. Chefs are encouraged to be highly creative with their dishes. The only requirement for the dishes is that bugs must be fully incorporated and visible in some way in each dish.
Chefs have 50 minutes to prepare their three dishes. Dishes are judged on taste, originality, and presentation by a panel of judges.
Chef Andrew Smith of buKu Wake Forest was first introduced to the art of cooking with bugs while traveling in Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore where he enjoyed eating crickets from street food vendors.
Smith and his sous-chef, Lane Calaway, created an appetizer of broccolini soup with mealworms, lobster, corn and peppers, an entree of flank steak with chimichurri and super worms. For dessert, they created a white chocolate tort with cricket chocolate ganache.
Alex Cordova and Francisco Segovia from Raleigh's Tonbo Ramen created an appetizer of a Chinese steamed pork bun with crickets, super worms and pulled pork with a tempura fried shiso leaf with crickets, an entree of lamb chops with worms and garlic fried rice with worms, and a dessert of green tea mochi doughnut with crickets.
The team from buKu won the close competition.
Wear predicts more Americans will be eating insects in the future.
"Eating insects has a lower impact on the planet than eating animal protein," said Wear. "Eating insects today is where sushi was 10 or 20 years ago."
BugFest is an all-day event on Saturday, October 20 at Raleigh's North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences.