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 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!