Jimmy Crippen, owner of Crippen’s Country Inn and Restaurant, announced to his staff late last week that he would be closing the establishment and moving with his wife, Carolyn, to Florida.
He will also be devoting more of his time to the various “Got to Be NC” Competition Dining Series events that take place at various places in North Carolina.
The Competition Dining Series evolved from Crippen’s Fire on the Rock Chefs Challenge.
“It was just time,” Crippen said. “Tonight (Saturday) is going to be tough, but special. I’ve just been doing a lot of work to make sure that my staff can find positions in other restaurants. I’ve been meeting with each of them individually to say goodbye and tell them how much they have meant to Carolyn and myself.”
Saturday evening’s dinner service was the last for Crippen’s. Currently, the restaurant and the bed and breakfast are for sale.
“This year I’m going to be at 80 competition dining events away from the restaurant,” Crippen said. “Since I am not able to be at the restaurant, and I am part of the brand, I didn’t feel it was right for my staff or my clientele. After 19 years, it is time for a new chapter in in my life and I am excited about it.”
Crippen said that the farm where he and his wife live in Boone is owned by himself and his siblings, all of whom live in Florida. After his mother died last year, his siblings expressed a desire to sell the farm.
“All of my siblings, our kids and our grandchildren live in Florida,” he said. “This is a move to be closer to them.”
Crippen said that he will remain the emcee and driving force behind the competition dining series. The event started eight years ago as a way of stirring up business at Crippen’s during the slow part of the winter and showcasing local chefs in the High Country.
Last year, Crippen expanded the cooking competition into a statewide event, adding Fire on the Dock in Wrightsville Beach, Fire in the Triangle in Raleigh and Fire in the Triad in Greensboro.
This year, the event is covering even more ground, with the addition of Fire in the City in Charlotte and splitting Fire on the Rock between Asheville and Blowing Rock.
Fire on the Rock in Asheville concluded this week with the final battle between Chef Adam Hayes of the Red Stag Grill and Chef Jason Roy of LAB. The results were incomplete at presstime.
Earlier this week, Crippen traveled to Wilmington, to coordinate the media day for Fire on the Dock, which will take place at the Blue Water Waterfront Grill in Wrightsville Beach from Feb. 18 through April 3.
Fire on the Rock in Blowing Rock will begin on April 8 and will take place at the Meadowbrook Inn.
The finals of Fire on the Rock will take place during the Blowing Rock Wine and Food Festival April 10-14 and will feature the winner of the Asheville series versus the winner of the Blowing Rock series.
“Like I said, my biggest concern was my staff,” he said. “They are all very talented and well-trained and I want their careers to continue in a positive direction."
“To the people of Blowing Rock, I just want to say, in the words of Saturday Night Live’s Chico Rodriguez, ‘Blowing Rock has been very, very good to me.’ All of the relationships I have made in Blowing Rock over the past 19 years have been the best ones of my life,” he said.