Your NCRLA Chef Showdown winners are here! After competing in preliminary and regional rounds of competition earlier this year, 20 top chefs and pastry chefs, and six bartenders paired with six distilleries from across the state (narrowed down from a starting pool of 60+ chefs and a dozen mixologists) competed for the winning titles at the grand finale—and (drumroll!) Oscar Johnson of Jimmy Pearls in Charlotte was named the NCRLA Chef of the Year, Lydia Greene of Machete in Greensboro the NCRLA Pastry Chef of the Year, David Bowen of The Ginger Fox in Winston-Salem the NCRLA Bartender of the Year, and Broad Branch Distillery in Winston-Salem the NCRLA Distillery of the Year.
Raleigh Magazine got the pleasure of tasting our way through the delectable dishes and bangin’ cocktails at the Performance Food Service People’s Choice Awards on Aug. 8 at Angus Barn—and, boy, was it hard to choose our favorites (it’s a tough job, but someone has to do it…). Some of our top bites and sips were PARA chef Myles Scaglione’s braised rabbit, Machete chef Kevin Cottrell’s grilled and braised beef ribs, and Flying Machine Taproom and Kitchen mixologist Brian Pratt’s Blue Shark Vodka cocktail. … But, really, everything was delicious and they’re all winners in our book (and, ahem, stomachs).
We also, of course, have to give a shoutout to our home-city representatives, mixologist Jessie Rossabi of The Willard Rooftop Lounge, repping Mystic Farm and Distillery in Durham; and chef Kyle Teears of Saint Jacques French Cuisine—the only Raleigh chef to make it to the finals (!).
In its sixth season, the NCRLA Chef Showdown (now the longest-running culinary and mixology competition in the state!) was conceptualized by Charlotte-based food and foodcentric travel writer Heidi Billotto in 2016, who continues to contract with the NCRLA to organize the event. “Chef Showdown has become the place to showcase the incredible talent of the North Carolina hospitality industry,” says NCRLA President and CEO Lynn Minges.
The application process for chefs and mixologists begins in February each year, and the competition runs from late March to early April—up until the August Grand Finale. Fun fact: Wake Tech Community College School of Baking and Pastry Arts serves as NCRLA’s “home base” for both the preliminary and regional rounds of competition, a way for the association to “shine a spotlight on the future growth of the hospitality industry and on today’s culinary students who will become working NC chefs and pastry chefs in the years to come,” says Billotto.
And, who knows, maybe next year one of those students will be competing for a prestigious NCRLA title themselves. Until then, congrats to this year’s winners and to all the talented chefs and bartenders who made their way through the competition!