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!






Meet the 2017 NC Chef Showdown Chefs…

Time for a little game of NC Chef Showdown Q&A.

Everything you ever wanted to know, well almost, about the 2017  line up of talented culinary competitors…Meet the 2017NC Chef Showdown Chefs

Jim Diecchio Rocksalt
Chef Jim Diecchio

Meet Chef Jim Diecchio – Executive Chef at Rocksalt Restaurant  in Charlotte NC

What inspired you to become a chef?  My interest in food began as a kid, from harvesting tomatoes with my mom from our garden, making tomato sauce and canning it for the year to come.  As well as with my grandma, learning to pickle and can beets and green beans from her garden.

Describe your culinary style.  I make food that I want to eat and that I hope other people want to eat too.  I don’t do anything new or ground breaking, but rather take familiar dishes and try to present them in a way that reflects my experiences and background.  A lot of my background in cooking comes from the Mediterranean, mostly Greek and Italian, but also including Turkish and Lebanese influences as well.

What is your favorite food? Favorites: Tacos or Ramen; Guilty Pleasure: Donuts!

What is your greatest culinary accomplishment?  Being invited to cook and then to come back and cook again at the James Beard House in New York City on three separate occasions!

tim Garndinetti spring house
Chef Tim Grandinetti

Meet Chef Tim Grandinetti – Executive Chef at  Spring House Restaurant Kitchen & Bar in Winston Salem NC

Please describe your culinary style.  New Southern Deliciousness!

What do you consider to be the best thing about being a chef?  The opportunity to collaborate,  to work on a team and to serve my guests

What’s your favorite food? Anything Italian… and I adore Foie Gras!

What you may not know about chef Tim…As creative as my culinary arts might seem, I am a math and science guy, left-brained, and i perceive flavors, textures, and colors as if they were part of an equation… I just try to solve the equation.

Ann marie Stefaney - Heirloom
Chef Ann Marie Stefaney

Meet Chef Ann Marie Stefaney – Pastry Chef  at  Heirloom Restaurant in Charlotte NC

What do you consider to be the best thing about being a pastry chef?   That I can literally do whatever I want. I make all the bread, cheese, and desserts every day. As long as they are ready at service time I can come up with my own menus. I love it!

Describe your culinary style.   Creative – Since I have been at Heirloom I haven’t made the same dish twice,  although different variations have come around. I think there is way too much out there to learn than to be stuck in making the same things over and over.

What is your favorite meal?  After service at midnight we get grilled cheeses at the diner. Pimento on rye…. yaaaasssssss!

And, what is it we might not know about chef Ann Marie?  That she’s been on the Food Network, not once but twice!

Chef Thomas Marlow

Meet Chef Thomas Marlow – Executive Chef  at    Mimosa Grill in Charlotte NC

What do you consider to be the best thing about being a chef?  There is no better feeling on earth then watching a guest take a bite of food that has come from the kitchen to the table and just see their BIG smile on their first bite – It’s why we do what we do – to make others happy!

What’s your favorite meal?  Any meal I can have with my girlfriend Allie, they are often few and far between..

What is something people would be surprised to learn about you? After my freshman year of college, I decided to stay in Charlotte for the summer and I needed to find a job to pay my rent and bills. My first Job in Charlotte was actually at Mimosa Grill, but as a server’s assistant/bus boy – It’s funny how it always comes back full circle.

chef shelby smith -Top of the Hill
Chef Shelby Smith

Meet Chef Shelby Smith – Pastry Chef at  Top of The Hill Restaurant  Chapel Hill NC

How would you describe your culinary style? I like to say I’m always “changing and improving.”  I like to take an old classic and reconstruct it with a different element, presentation, or flavor profile.

What’s your favorite meal of the day?  BREAKFAST! Breakfast is always that one meal in the day that is really going to make and impression of how you feel throughout the day. I believe you should always having something that is both wholesome, but also soulful to you. Personally, I like a good stack of pancakes with berries or bananas and a nice glass of milk; or even better, biscuits and gravy with soft cooked eggs and fruit, its the best!

What’s your favorite food? I do have a guilty pleasure for pizza. I’ve set a goal with my boyfriend to  try every pizza place in the Triangle!

Chef Alyssa Wilen

Meet Chef Alyssa Wilen – Chef & Owner          Chef Alyssa’s Kitchen in Charlotte NC

How would you describe your culinary style?  I like to keep it fresh and healthy and use a lot of Middle Eastern and Mediterranean flavors

What Inspires you? Overall hospitality and putting delicious food on a plate that makes people feel great!

What do you consider to be the best thing about being a chef? The connection to people through food and the artistic outlet it provides.

What is your favorite food and your guilty pleasure?  Brisket, I love smoked brisket and my guilty pleasure would be a complete NC BBQ dinner with greens, slaw and hush puppies!

CBG Food Shoot
Chef Scott Schabot

Meet Chef Scott Schabot  Executive Chef  at  Cameron Bar & Grill  in Raleigh NC

What inspired you to become a chef? I always enjoyed cooking with my Grandmother as a child. I would say she was my inspiration.

What is your favorite food? I love oysters and I am a sucker for Ramen noodles.

How would you describe your culinary style? Southern with a twist, I like to use simple ingredients and make them pop!

What is your greatest accomplishment? Meeting my wife Sasha and having our daughter Zoey have been the greatest two things in my life

Matthew Krenz - asbury
Chef Matthew Krenz

Meet Chef Matthew Krenz Executive Chef at            The Asbury at the Dunhill Hotel in Charlotte NC

How do you describe your culinary style? Southern-Inspired cuisine with a focus on local sustainable ingredients, and whole animal processing.

What do you consider to be the best part of being a chef? The community, the connections we are able to make with such genuine people. That really pushes you to be better for your cliental and be your best self every day.

What is your favorite food? Great bread and great cheese, and my guilty pleasure is fresh pasta.

What is your greatest accomplishment? I am getting MARRIED this year to an amazing woman that has a big heart, infectious smile and is fiercely smart.

Julius Kalman Vidalia
Chef Julius Kalman

Meet Chef Julius Kalman Owner & Pastry Chef at  Vidalia Restaurant and Wine Bar in Boone NC

What inspired you to become a chef? I just love food…

How would you describe your culinary style? I would say southern with a twist…I love Mexican food.

What is your favorite food? Steak is my favorite, but I love chocolate.

Tell us something that most people may not know about you. I speak Hungarian!

Chef Bud Taylor

Meet Chef Bud Taylor Executive Chef & Owner at                          The Bistro Topsail in Surf City NC

What inspired you to become a chef? Growing up in a southern family, cooking with my grandfather.

What do you consider to be one of the best things about being a chef? The ability to bring people together over a meal and to introduce people to new ingredients!

When you are not in the kitchen, what do you like to do? Stand up paddle board, golf, farm/gardening, and photography.

What is something that people would be surprised to learn about you? I have a degree in Graphic Design & Minor in Marketing, not a culinary degree

PHillip PLatoni
Chef Phillip Platoni

Meet Chef Phillip Platoni Chef de Cuisine at  Southminster Continued Care Retirement Community in Charlotte NC

What inspired you to become a chef? When I was young I would sit on the counter and watch my grandmother make fresh pasta – she would hang it all over the kitchen. She eventually would let me help and I’ve been in love ever since.

What do you consider to be the best thing about being a chef? Being able to be creative! Learning that there are not many rules you have to follow when creating a dish. Push the limits!

What is your favorite meal of the day? Breakfast, because it’s acceptable to eat it at all hours of the day and night.

If you couldn’t be a  chef, what would you do? I would want to be a Forest Ranger in the Pacific Northwest.

Hannah Woociker - Highland Ave
Chef Hannah Woociker

Meet Chef Hannah Woociker Pastry Chef at Highlands Avenue in Hickory NC 

What do you consider to be the best thing about being  chef? The ability to help people be happy. There is no denying that there is solace in a warm bun or joy in a birthday cake. Outside of that, it is a limitless field ,always growing and changing with the people it provides for. I see that as an unending challenge, an exciting one .

What is your favorite meal of the day? Breakfast: Belgian waffles with fresh fruit over flowing and a drizzle of maple syrup and a side of bacon, please.

What is your favorite food? Definitely salad, any and all types; but my guilty pleasure is anything where peanut butter and chocolate unite.

Your greatest accomplishment? It would have to be having my name on a menu. I was more excited about that than getting my degree.

chef lil lacassagne - st Jacques at Burke Manor Inn
Chef Lil Lacassagne

Meet Chef Lil Lacassagne Owner & Executive Chef at Saint Jacques at  The Burke Manor Inn

What inspired you to become a chef? The Flavors & Scents from Provence, France, along with  two grandmothers who were constantly cooking, all from homegrown and raised ingredients.

How would you describe your culinary style? French!

What is your favorite food? White fish, Mediterranean style. My guilty pleasure – Saucisson and Pissaladiere

How did you come to be a chef in North Carolina? I started my career in France, met my American wife on a cruise ship, which brought me to the U.S. in 1994. We moved to Raleigh in 1998 from Las Vegas and have since relocated to the Greensboro area.

Scott Ostrander
Chef Scott Ostrander

Meet Chef Scott Ostrander Executive Chef at The Red Stag Grille at The Grand Bohemian Hotel in Asheville NC

What do you consider to be the best thing about being a chef? Everything resets every day

Describe your culinary style? I have always cooked very farm to table, even before that was a phrase. Whatever is local, fresh, and in season.

What is your favorite meal of the day? I like the late night snack after work the best, it’s gratifying after a long day

What is your favorite food and your guilty pleasure? My favorite food  is Thai curry. Guilty pleasure is definitely donuts.

Chef thomas card - high res
Chef Thomas Card

Meet Chef Thomas Card Executive Chef at The Counting House at  21c Museum Hotel in Durham, NC

How would you describe your culinary style? Modern American with a seafood influence .

What is your favorite food? I love sunchokes. My guilty pleasure is chocolate cake!

What is your greatest accomplishment? Working at two 5-star 5-Diamond hotels and achieving those accolades!

When you are not in the kitchen, what will we find you enjoying? Golfing, yard work, youth mentoring and playing with my kids

Chef Adam Reed -Sante
Chef Adam Reed

Meet Chef Adam Reed Executive Chef and Owner Sante Restaurant in Matthews NC

What do you consider to be the best thing about being a chef? I love the chance to create something with my hands on a daily basis and have guests who can enjoy the food immediately and be amazed. Also, I love being able to form relationships with farmers and food artisans who’s hard work and passion flow through to the food they create – they make my job easy.

How would you describe your culinary style? French/American cuisine with a focus on locally available product .

What is your favorite meal of the day? Family meal at the end of dinner shift with my staff. Finally able to relax and enjoy the company of the people who work so hard to make it all possible.

cropped-2017-chef-showdown-logo.pngNow that you’ve met the NCRLA 2017 NC Chef Showdown Line up of chefs, plan to come and see what they bring to the table. 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!