These Tickets are Selling Like Hotcakes!!

static1.squarespaceIts a funny expression – selling like hotcakes  – and I am honestly not sure of the exact origins or how quickly hot cakes actually sell; but I know the reference implies that they sell quickly and such is the case with the tickets to the 2017 NC Chef Showdown.

This post is to remind you to make your reservations and buy your tickets today – we don’t want you to miss out!

cropped-2017-chef-showdown-logo.pngThe NC Chef Showdown is an annual event, held by the North Carolina Restaurant and Lodging Association in association with the first night of the NCRLAExpo and this year presented by Got To Be NC, will find 12 of the state’s savory chefs, four pastry chefs and six mixologists  up against each other going for braggin’ rites and the big title in one of three categories.

In the offing, the titles of NCRLA 2017 Chef of the Year, NCRLA 2017 Pastry Chef of the Year, and NCRLA 2017 Mixologist of the Year.

The ambulatory event held at the 214 Martin Street and Market Place venue in Raleigh will take place on August 21, 2017 – yes, the same day as the once-in-a-lifetime solar eclipse.

After the sun and the moon have their big show; North Carolina’s up and coming culinary stars come out to shine, cooking for an anticipated crowd of 400 or so lovers of fine food and delicious drink.

The emphasis is on all things local and living in North Carolina.

Twelve North Carolina chefs from across the state will be presenting savory dishes to the judges and to the crowd.


In addition. four North Carolina Pastry chefs will be on hand to prepare offerings that will satisfy the crowd’s collective sweet tooth

The judging panel will have final say on the big winner, but Showdown guests get to weigh in as well with a People’s Choice Award for Best Savory Chef, Best Pastry Chef and Best Mixologist.

That’s right – these six top shelf North Carolina Mixologists will also be shaking and stirring up the excitement throughout the evening at six individual bars sponsored by six local North Carolina Distilleries

All of this to say, its an event you just can’t miss it.  

Get your tickets here – they are selling like hotcakes!

With thanks to our event sponsors

The 2017 NC Chef Showdown and the NCRLA would also like to add a special thanks to our in-kind sponsors for helping to make this event possible! Cheers to our friends from La Farm Bakery, Largemouth Communications, Pepsi, S&D Coffee & Tea, Shelton Vineyards , Trophy Brewing and Appalachian Mountain Brewery

Meet the Judges and Co-Hosts of the 2017 NCRLA NC Chef Showdown…

2017 Chef Showdown Logo - BannerJoin Charlotte based food writer, blogger and culinary personality Heidi Billotto and WRAL TV’s favorite TV anchor and self proclaimed foodie Ken Smith as the co-hosts of the 2017 NC Chef Showdown in Raleigh on Monday Aug 21, 2017.
Yes, its the evening of the Big solar eclipse, but after the sun and the moon have their big show that afternoon 16 culinary stars and 6 mixology meteorites will come out to shine at night!

Its North Carolina’s premiere culinary competition with awards for the 2017 NCRLA Chef of the Year, 2017 NCRLA Pastry Chef of the Year and 2017 NCRLA Mixologist of the Year awards up for grabs. Could be anyone’s game. We won’t know the official winners or those receiving People’s Choice Awards until Monday night, but Heidi and Ken will be bringing it all to you bite by bite, sip by sip live in Raleigh at the 214 Martin Street/Market Place event venue. If youc an’t be in Raleigh, follow all the action on our social media.  Don’t miss it! Tix at .

cropped-2017-chef-showdown-logo.pngWhile the event will feature a People’s Choice award as a part of all the interactive fun for the crowd in attendance, Six official Culinary Judges and three official Mixology Judges will also be on hand to crown the winners and also make selections for the Most creative chef and pastry chef and the chef and pastry chef who make the best use of produce, proteins and product that is  grown, raised, caught or made in the state of North Carolina

So happy to welcome our esteemed panel of judges and mixology judges to the party – Cheers to our culinary judges: Colleen Minton of Terra Vita,   the annual festival of local food and drink to take place this year in October; Chef Lionel Vatinet, North Carolina’s famed French Master Baker and owner of La Farm Bakery in Cary, NC.; Chef Jesse Roque, of Never Blue Restaurant in Hendersonville and the 2016 NCRLA Chef of the Year; Lisa Prince, host of Flavor, NC, a  wonderful television series dedicated to preserving and celebrating North Carolina’s agricultural heritage, one dinner plate at a time. Also on the culinary judging panel is Tim Parrish, Marketing director for Got to Be NC, our presenting sponsor – the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services; and Steve Mangano, creator of the hot new culinary app, CurEat, the technology sponsor for this the 2017 NC Chef Showdown.


While our six culinary judges will be tasting all 16 sweet and savory dishes, our panel of three mixology judges will be sipping their way through the event judging our mixologists on Style, Creativity, Presentation, Originality of the Recipe and Overall Taste.

Our 2017 panel of Top Shelf Mixology judges include Jordan Keiper, an award winning mixologist, restauranteur and newly named North Carolina Spirit Ambassador; Fred Thompson, publisher of Edible Piedmont magazine and author of numerous books centered around food and drink, including “Bourbon: 50 Rousing Recipes for a Classic American Spirit”;  and Max Trujillo, co-creator of  the North Carolina F&B Podcast, a show that focuses on the food and beverage industry, specific to North Carolina.

And there you have it – the judges for the 2017 Nc Chef Showdown….let the games begin!




Meet the Mixologists

cropped-2017-chef-showdown-logo.pngThe 2017 NCRLA NC Chef Showdown sponsored by Got To Be NC,  takes place in Raleigh NC on August 21, 2017 at the 214 Martin Street/Market Place event venue. The fun kicks off at 6 pm when 16 talented chefs from across the state of North Carolina go head to head, plate to plate in a one night competition for NCRLA 2017 Chef of the Year and NCRLA 2017 Pastry Chef of the Year.    Tickets are still available, so save the date and make your plans now


we love craft cocktailsAnd because we  cannot live on food alone… there are craft cocktails created from local North Carolina spirits!

We are really looking forward to raising the bar, shaking and stirring things up a bit as these six top-shelf mixologists from across the state of North Carolina join in the fun as they vie for the honors of being named NCRLA 2017 Mixologist of the Year!

 The “Mixologist of the Year” award will be given to the most creative cocktail crafter during the culinary competition.

“We value all types of culinary skills, which is why NCRLA has added ‘Mixologist of the Year’ to our 2017 award lineup,” said NCRLA President and CEO Lynn Minges. “Mixology is a culinary art, and one that should be celebrated.” 

download-1For the 2017 competition, each distillery hand-picked their mixologist representative.

 A panel of three judges will  determine the winning mixologist based on five target points:  Style, Creativity, Presentation, Originality of the Recipe and Overall Taste.

The crowd will also have an opportunity to weigh in with the  People’s Choice award for best cocktail of the evening!

Who will best represent our six featured North Carolina distilleries, stirring up the crowd with their winning craft cocktail? Could be anyone’s game…Meet the 2017 contenders for NCRLA Mixologist of the Year – then after the competition is over, come back to these pages to see their featured drinks and get the recipes.


GBD-102 Bedlam Logo-v1-[11.30.16]-ms-02Meet Graybeard Distillery makers of Bedlam Vodka in Durham North Carolina. Bedlam Vodka is a unique, award-winning rice-based vodka, distilled from an Irish recipe several generations in the making.

Representing Bedlam in the Showdown, Meet Brand Director and Bartender, Jesse Cortez.


“I was raised in Philadelphia, PA by my mother along with my little brother and sister. She taught us a lot about music, art, and food and I think my love for these is a major influence on the drinks I create. I’ve been working in the industry for 17 years and behind the bar for almost 11 years. Working for Graybeard has afforded me the opportunity to really explore what I am capable of as a bartender and as a person. Bedlam has become the ultimate tool in my kit to do what I love.” – Jesse Cortez  


 Covington Vodka Distillery in Snow Hill, NC is North Carolina’s first and only sweet potato vodka. Produced by 3rd generation sweet potato farmers in small batches to capture the middle 60 percent known as the “heart” of the distillate, the handcrafting of this liquor yields a smooth, clear lovely character, coaxed from the fruits of the land. The spent mash is returned to the soil to enrich the next crop.

Representing Covington in the Showdown, Meet Paul Campbell, Owner of Mister Bartender in Wilmington, NC and bartender at Pizzetta’s Italian Restaurant in Leland, NC  


Paul has an unusually suited professional background that led him to his mixology career. It all began as a native of Guyana, the only English speaking country in South America, surrounded by Dutch, Spanish, Brazilian and Caribbean influences. He migrated and brought that diversity of cultures to New York City, where he was a finance major in the US Air Force then devoted 12 years to Wall Street earning success and a responsible reputation with his employers.

1BBF51A2-46FC-4529-A0A8-7EFF47B118C2[43]Paul relocated with his family to the Cape Fear area and for 7 years has worked for some of the most prestigious organizations growing in skill and knowledge in food and beverage. Hired on as an Assistant Banquet Manager at The Country Club of Landfall and honed bartending skills at Cape Fear National in Brunswick Forest and Bald Head Island Country Club, he is locally one of the most recognizable bartenders, bringing his creative passion and cultural diversity to Pizzetta’s Italian Restaurant in Leland, NC and to his own bartending business, Mister Bartender.



Durham Distillery in Durham, NC is owned and operated by Melissa and Lee Katrincic who combine time-honored, gin-making traditions with techniques borrowed from modern chemistry to create spirits that are both classic and contemporary. Enter Conniption Gins and Damn Fine Liqueurs.

Representing Durham Distillery in the Showdown, Meet Mixologist Greg Schammel of LaRue Elm and now the beverage manager at the new  Rue-Bar in Greensboro

RSCN0593Schammel, who has been with LaRue Elm since it opened March 2015, trained with world-renowned mixologist Myles Cunliffe during his tenure at The Marshall Freehouse in 2014. Cunliffe, a mixology consultant who was named Imbibe’s Educator of the Year in 2017 is widely recognized as a specialist in molecular mixology. Since, Schammel has worked closely with Bell to create a modern cocktail program to complement the food at LaRue Elm, and quickly proved his passion and appetite for the craft, making cocktails a hallmark of the dining experience.   Schammel borrows from Chef Trey Bell in the kitchen, and uses a chamber vacuum sealer and centrifuge for his infusions as well as a food dehydrator for garnishes, dusts and fruit leathers. Schammel is also credited with introducing the first draft cocktail program in the area, and the popular “Roulette” cocktail offering, whereby guests may choose two descriptors – or even a theme/song/season/feeling – and a liquor for a whimsical and one-of-a-kind cocktail.   “Rue-Bar is a natural extension of our work at LaRue Elm,” say Chef Trey Bell. “Having a dedicated bar will give Greg and our team the freedom to explore even more, and contribute to Greensboro’s food and beverage culture in an additional way.”

Muddy River Carolina Rum logo jpeg Muddy River Distillery in Belmont, NC is North Carolina’s first distiller of rum. Launched in 2006 by Robbie and Caroline Delaney, the small batch production line now boasts 6 different rums in the distillery’s portfolio.

Representing Muddy River in the Showdown, Meet Amanda Britton, Head Mixologist at 204 North Kitchen & Cocktails in Charlotte NC

204 North Kitchen & Cocktails is a farm to table concept in Uptown Charlotte that utilizes locally sourced ingredients  in their kitchen. Amanda carries that philosophy behind the bar, as well, with cocktail creations based on local flavors.



Originally from New Jersey, Amanda has been shaking her way through the Queen City for almost 6 years. In that time she has gained a plethora of knowledge when it comes to Charlotte’s craft beer & cocktail scene. She loves to utilize lesser known spirits with familiar flavors to help even the most skeptical drinker go out of their comfort zone!





Df4nyPIf_400x400TOPO Distillery in Chapel Hill, NC,  is certified organic and the only Green+ Certified distillery in the country. They take great measures to ensure their building, equipment and products are environmentally sustainable.

Representing TOPO in the NC Chef Showdown, Meet Andrew Izrael, director of Beverage Creativity for the Bottle Cap Group based out of Charlotte NC,


Head Shot- Bar 3


Andrew initially got his start in restaurants as a chef, which was his dream from a young age. Deep down that will always be his first love, but he says he talked far too much, and had far too happy of a demeanor to be suited for kitchen work. The transition to the bar, where he could talk people through the food that he loves while still fueling his insatiable need for creativity, was perfectly natural. Of course, he dove into any and every cocktail book he could get his hands on. After cutting his teeth with some of North Carolina’s strongest bar programs, Andrew recently took the role of Director of Beverage Creativity for Bottle Cap Group, known for their popular hotspots across north and South Carolina, including Charlotte, Charleston, and Greenville, SC.


download Southern Artisan Spirits, in Kings Mountain, NC was the third legal distiller in the state of North Carolina. Dedicated to the revitalization of the lost art of craft distillation, the distillery’s Cardinal Gin and its new Turning Point Rye Whiskey both start with fresh organic ingredients.

Representing Southern Artisan Spirits in the Showdown Meet Mixologist Bob Peters of The Punch Room at the Ritz-Carlton in Charlotte, NC.

Bob Peters is actually a Charlotte native which makes him as rare and as special as the libations you will find behind his bar. With strong southern roots, Bob has always enjoyed the art of dining and taking care of friends.


Bob is well known for his creative palate as well as for his ability to entertain.  Peters has won numerous awards including the 2015 Global Bartender of the Year for The Ritz-Carlton Corporation.  He has been featured in an international culinary magazine as well as countless local and regional publications. In the spring of 2016, he accompanied some of the most elite chefs from Charlotte, NC to the coveted James Beard House in New York City to present a “Taste of Charlotte” dinner to the Big Apple’s food fanatics. Most recently in January 2017, Bob was a featured mixologist at the highly acclaimed Cayman Cookout food festival hosted by Eric Ripert, Jose Andres, and Anthony Bourdain, as well as the featured talent at the Charleston Wine & Food, and the Atlanta Food & Wine Festivals. 

When you join Bob for a cocktail, be prepared to linger and let go of the reins. In no time, you will be carried away on a journey sure to delight the senses. Check him out at The Punch Room in The Ritz-Carlton, Charlotte, NC. You will be captivated by what you find and heʼll have the hootch ready.

static1.squarespaceNow that you’ve met the NCRLA 2017 NC Chef Showdown Line up of mixologists, check out the talented line of chefs and pastry chefs who will be on hand as well. Then, make plans to come and see what they bring to the table and the glass! Tickets for  the 2017 NC Chef Showdown are priced at $125 per person. The event takes place on August 21, 2017 from 6-9 pm in Raleigh at 214 Martin Street /Market Place

Your ticket price includes unlimited tasting sized portions from all 16 of these talented chefs, tasting sized cocktails from six North Carolina distilleries represented by six of the state’s talented mixologists, a chance to vote in the evening’s People’s Choice awards,  a selection of wine or beer, a gift bag to take home and an evening of fun,  music and more! Don’t wait, Get Your Tickets Now!