And the 2017 Winners Are…

2017 Chef Showdown Logo

As each of the participating chefs, mixologists, distillers, judges, co-hosts and sponsors bask in the afterglow of a wonderful 2017 NC Chef Showdown, presented by Got To Be NC on behalf of the NCRLA, we couldn’t let this week end without to sharing a recap of highlights of the Aug 21, 2017 event and congratulate all of our winners once again!

Lights, camera, eclipse, and action…

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The day of the August 21 started early for the team from the NCRLA  led by event coordinator extraordinaire Mindy Wharton, as they transformed the event space at Market Hall and 214 Martin Street in Raleigh from an empty venue to a warm and festive party scene set to celebrate the work of North Carolina’s participating chefs, restaurants and mixologists.

Stopping only to view the eclipse – how could they not? –  flowers were arranged, gift bags stuffed, tables draped, bars set, beer & wine delivered, all as 16 participating chefs and six mixologists started to arrive to get things ready for the crowd of 300+ attendees. The evening  was a spectacular blend of music, food and drink, a bit of industry networking and tons of fun for all.


The crowd arrived at 6, but the action started at 5 pm as chefs began presenting their individual dishes to our esteemed panel of six culinary judges. The judging process took approximately two and half hours, with a different chef presenting every 10 minutes.

Then through the course of the evening,  the chefs and their assistants served generous sample-sized portions of their dishes to the crowd who were doing a bit of judging all their own in making their selections for the 2017 NC Chef Showdown People’s Choice awards for best of show in both the Sweet and Savory categories.


2017 NCRLA Chef of the Year

Chef  Matthew Krenz | The Asbury at the Dunhill Hotel

285A0864After all was said, done and eaten. Chef Matthew Krenz of The Asbury at the Dunhill Hotel in Charlotte NC was awarded with the coveted 2017 NCRLA Chef of the Year award. His plate, a reflection of  the way he cooks each day at The Asbury, and a nod to his family’s cattle ranch, Krenz Ranch in Marshville, North Carolina.

IMG_6224The Asbury features a Krenz Ranch blackboard on the menu and offerings vary from day to day, week to week, as Chef Matthew and his team use each and every part of the animal. This night Krenz’s dish featured the Krenz Ranch beef fat. “I can tell you that there is a whole lot more fat on an animal than there is fillet mignon,” he told the judges. ” So I wanted to feature it here to demonstrate how important it is that we use all of the parts of the animal.” To that end, Krenz created his Krenz Ranch Beef Fat Sweet Potato Confit for the Showdown using local Sorghum, North Carolina Sweet Potato Puree, Sweet Potato Chips, Assorted Peppers, Bosky Acre Goat Cheese Crema and Microgreens.


2017 NCRLA Pastry Chef of the Year

Chef Ann Marie Stefaney | Heirloom Restaurant

3I7A8610 2On the sweeter side of things. the top pastry honors went to Pastry Chef Ann Marie Stefaney of Heirloom Restaurant, also in Charlotte as she was named 2017 NCRLA Pastry Chef of the Year. Like Krenz and the team at the Asbury, Stefaney , Heirloom Executive Chef Clark Barlow and his team take pride in making use of everything they source from local farms.

IMG_6222Chef Barlow also forages which gives Stefany a plentiful local pantry from which to draw on for inspiration. Heirloom has the distinction of using ONLY North Carolina products  on the menu and so every item on Stefaney’s dessert plate had local roots. Her plate was a dramatic presentation and a play on the idea of “Coconut Apricot Cake” with fig leaves, chanterelle mushrooms, chocolate dirt, smoked blackberries, chantilly cream and acorn-candied pecans.


2017 NCRLA Mixologist of the Year

 Amanda Britton |  204 North Kitchen and Cocktails

Muddy River Distillery

Because man and woman cannot live by food along, there was also drink. This was the first official year that mixologists were a part of the competition and they stirred up excitement throughout the evening at individual bars each crafting a specific cocktail made for the occasion.

285A0859The mixologists were selected and sponsored by six local North Carolina Distilleries; and throughout the evening our panel of three Mixology judges walked from bar to bar  to judge drinks and mixologists alike to ultimately award the title of NCRLA Mixologist of the Year to Amanda Britton, of 204 North Kitchen & Cocktails in  Charlotte NC.

285A0539Amanda represented Muddy River Distillery in Belmont with her creative mix, named for the spirit in the featured cocktail: Queen Charlotte’s Clarified Milk Punch. A unique blend of  Muddy River’s reserve Queen Charlotte Rum with cognac, absinthe, green tea, whole milk, sugar, lemons, pineapple and spices. Stay tuned for our post next week with the complete recipe for Amanda’s winning cocktail as well as those of the other five mixologists competing in the 2017 Showdown.

IMG_6202 While these culinarians from North Carolina’s Queen City, pictured here with NCRLA president and CEO Lynn Minges and Chairman of the Board, Mike Martino with Sheraton Imperial Hotel and Convention Center, took the triple crown of top awards at the 2017 Showdown, there were still more accolades to come, both from the judges’ tables as well as from the crowd of guests in attendance.

2017 NCRLA NC Chef Showdown GotToBeNC, Most Creative Plate and People’s Choice Award Winners

Twenty percent of each chefs totally score was based on  the use of local North Carolina product, while another 30 percent was based on creativity of concept and presentation. Our top award winners scored high marks in each category, but there were also others who deserved recognition.

IMG_6232The “GotToBeNC Award” for Pastry, made possible by the North Carolina Department of Agriculture, and awarded for the best use of local products in a dessert went this year to Pastry Chef Hannah Woociker of Highland Avenue restaurant in Hickory North Carolina for her plate entitled, “Summer Fields” The delicious, and eventually award-winning, melange on Chef Woociker’s plate included a Lime Basil Mousse, Macerated Muscadine Grapes, Lard Dough Crumble, Muscadine Sauce, and a delicate Sunflower Seed Brittle.


IMG_6163The “GotToBeNC Award” – again from the North Carolina Department of Agriculture –  for the 2017 Showdown’s savory side of things was awarded to chef Lil Lacassagne of the Burke Manor Inn & Pavilion in Gibsonville, NC, located just outside of Greensboro.  Chef Lil’s dish  was a tasty North Carolina French Surf and Turf with Smoked Trout Tartare served in a trout skin cone and Duck Confit Parmentier with North Carolina Collards. The  composed plate included  NC Apple Roasted Roses  on a bed of bacon with a NC peach glaze and was garnished with real roses from the inn’s garden, a tip of Chef Lil’s toque to the city of Gibsonville, also known as the City of Roses.


IMG_6229The Most Creative Dish Award honors were also given to one sweet and one savory dish.

Most Creative Dish for Pastry went to pastry Chef Shelby Smith of Top Of the Hill Restaurant in Chapel Hill, NC. Chef Shelby’s dish featured fresh seasonal figs from three local farms. While her Bruleéd Figs took center stage on the plate, her homemade Goat Cheese Ice Cream, & Buttermilk Cornmeal Cake with Apple Gel, Honey “Caviar”, and Meringue shards comprise the delicious cast of  supporting flavor and texture.


IMG_6152And then there was the Most Creative Dish of the savory plates. Presentation always sets the tone and in this case winner Chef Tim Grandinetti of Spring House Restaurant. Kitchen & Bar in Winston-Salem NC decided to go big or go home.Each individual judges plate of Chef Grandinetti’s BBQ Spiced Chicken Confit with BBQ Dip featuring NC’s Cheerwine “Pop” & Compressed Watermelon; Sweet Corn & Garden Pepper-studded Cast-Iron Skillet griddled Hoecake with Duke’s Creamy & Crispy Slaw; and Pickled Peaches was presented under a dome encapsulated with a warm, rich smokiness. Judges lifted their own to take in the aroma before the first bite of the dish.

As the professional judges considered each dish and cocktail, 2017 Showdown guests were invited to judge as well. Each guest had one vote in each category, giving color coded tickets to their favorite savory plate, sweet plate and cocktail. We are proud to announce our 2017 NCRLA NC Chef Showdown People’s Choice winners are….


cocktailsFor 2017 People’s Choice Best Cocktail the award went to Mixologist Jesse Cortez representing Graybeard Distillery’s Bedlam Vodka. Graybeard is in Durham NC and  is a relatively new North Carolina distillery producing a grain to glass spirit from rice! Cortez’s creative cocktail was called “All Dogs Go To Heaven” and combined the smooth taste of Bedlam with a unique grapefruit tonic. it is pictured here in the glass in the foreground of this great cocktail shot shared with us by Raleigh-based blogger Jenny Field, Pastry Chef Online, who covered the event on her social media feeds.


0819172143aFor 2017 People’s Choice Best Savory Dish, honors and congratulations go once again  to Chef Tim Grandinetti of Springhouse Restaurant, Kitchen & Bar in Winston-Salem North Carolina, this years only double award winner! While the plates for each of the evenings 300 guests weren’t served under glass domes, the flavors on the plate spoke for themselves.



Always nice to end things on a sweet note and that is no exception when it comes to the announcement of our 2017 People’s Choice Best Dessert.  This year the award goes to the only male pastry chef in our line up, Chef Julius Kalman, chef and owner of Vidalia Restaurant and Wine Bar in Boone, NC. Chef Julius’ rich chocolate cake took the crowd by storm. His layered Hungarian-Style Chocolate Rum Cake included a Berry cream filling and  chocolate buttercream; arranged in a pool of sorghum caramel and topped with a chocolate chip pecan honey cookie and mixed berry coulis that was infused with North Carolina’s own Jones Von Drehle red wine.



IMG_6244Thanks again to all of our talented chefs, top shelf mixologists & distilleries and our esteemed panels of judges , co-hosts Heidi Billotto and WRAL’s Ken Smith and to all of our 2017 Showdown guests.

We’d also once again like to thank our sponsors and give a big shout out to Pepsi for providing the non alcoholic refreshments at our bars; to  Shelton Vineyard for the wines and the gift packages for our Most Creative winners; to Trophy Brewing and Appalachian Brewing Company for the evening’s selection of beer ; to La Farm Bakery of Cary, NC for the fabulous table of fresh baked bread to accompany all of the sweet and savory plates of the evening; and to Jeff Matthews of Old World Molding Company in Mooresville, NC for creating the 2017 commemorative coasters we gave  to each of this years’ participating chefs, mixologists and judges.


And now some more exciting news just in from the NCRLA…

Initiated in 2016, the NC Chef Showdown has proven itself an invaluable addition to the North Carolina Restaurant & Lodging Expo, which connects the restaurant and lodging industries for an all-inclusive program of education and an exposition of the latest products, services and technologies from across the state. This year’s expo took place on Monday, Aug. 21 and Tuesday, Aug. 22, featuring an assembly of industry professionals discussing state-of-the-art practices and innovative ideas affecting restaurant and hospitality businesses today.

Next year, in 2018, the NCRLExpo is Charlotte bound, scheduled to take place August 27-28. And that means the 2018 NC Chef Showdown will take place in Charlotte as well on Monday evening Aug 27 – Stay tuned…more details to come!

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!