QUEEN CITY FOOD FIGHT: Charlotte Chefs Take the Spotlight

HEIDI BILLOTTO FOODIt is said that a rising tide lifts all boats, when one wins they all win, and so it is  in the Charlotte culinary community. As a food writer and restaurant critic here in the Queen City, I have seen this to be true.  In an industry with a general reputation toward  egocentric representatives, Charlotte chefs and culinarians are for the most part a breed apart working together to promote the whole and help each other along the way.

You find this kind of camaraderie here and there in other cities, but in Charlotte it really seems to be something special. So much so that when the Piedmont Culinary Guild was originally formed with founding members Chef Luca Annunziata, Chef Kris Reid and writer Cat Harris, they came up with the idea of All Ships Rising as it related to the local Charlotte and greater Piedmont region culinary community and wanted to try to equally promote the things Guild members were involved with as well as all their culinary accomplishments to make our community and the rest of the world aware of all the depth and breadth of  culinary talent we have here in the Queen City.

guild logoTo do so they came up with the Hashtag #PCG_Charlotte to use on all their social media posts.  Chef Paul Verica of Heritage Food & Drink  and Provision’s Market, both in Waxhaw took it a step further and started using the hashtage #CLTRising in his social media.  Recently Chef Bruce Moffett of Barrington’s, Stagioni and Good Food on Montford, not a Guild member but a long time, well known and much loved chef in the Charlotte community has started a campaign complete with a hashtag as well – #CharlotteCooksToo.  All in an effort to promote what Charlotte chefs do, and do quite well, day in and day out in restaurants, at catering venues and in Cooking Schools.

When one gets a nod, the industry here gets a nod.  When one wins, we all win. All ships rise.

That’s not to say that chefs in the greater Charlotte area don’t enjoy a little competition, on the contrary they are happy to take part in a friendly fisticuffs now and again. Hence the success of the very popular GotToBeNC Competition Dining series in this area –  with which, as many of you will know, I am involved doing social media and local farmer/ producer and sponsor relationships –  as well as several other competitive events.

food fight posterEnter the first Queen City Food Fight – a challenge from one group of Charlotte area chefs to another . The North Carolina chapter of the American Culinary Federation, a national networking organization for chefs and culinary professionals, challenged the Piedmont Culinary Guild, a Charlotte-based member-only ensemble of chefs, farmers and other members of our culinary community, this food writer included, to a food fight.

In a friendly throwdown format, four teams of chefs from both sides, prepared four separate incredible courses. This first of what I am sure will become an annual event was held Sunday August 30 in the teaching kitchens at Central Piedmont Community Center’s Van Every Culinary Center.

Celebrity judges for the first ever Queen City Food Fight: from left, Matt, Kathleen and George
Celebrity judges for the first ever Queen City Food Fight: from left, Matt, Kathleen and George

The chefs brought their best to the table while QC Food Fight Guests and the trio of Celebrity Judges –  George Smith of Copper Barrel Distillery, Kathleen Purvis of The Charlotte Observer and Matt Morano, Charlotte Meteorologist – had the opportunity to rate every course, ranking each one using a list of criteria including taste, presentation and overall appeal.

the wine line up - all localEach dish was paired with a North Carolina wine and several wine makers and representatives of wineries were on hand to pour and chat with Food Fight guests.  In the house and in each glass, were fine samplings from RayLen Vineyards, Jones and Von Drehle Winery, Divine Llama Vineyards and Childress Vineyards.  While the wine and food pairing was not a consideration in the voting, I will note that I thought the pairings were spot on each bringing out the best in both food and wine.

bartender from HauntIn addition  and in included in the ticket price, were two drink vouchers and guest also enjoyed a choice of two signature Queen City Food Fight cocktails made with local spirits from NC’s own Copper Barrel Moonshine, especially prepared for the event by mixologist, Kevin Gavagan  of Haunt Bar in Charlotte

The Queen City Food Fight team from ACF North Carolina
The Queen City Food Fight team from ACF North Carolina

All the dishes showed well,  but this day, at this food fight, it was the chefs from the Piedmont Culinary Guild who took the overall win from the judges and the People’s Choice win, as well as  the win for best plate. Best plate honors were a tight race between Chef Jon Fortes of The Flipside  Cafe and The Flipside Restaurant in Ft Mill and Pastry Chef Ashley Bivens of 300 East in Charlotte and Heritage Food & Drink in Waxhaw.

Ummm, hard to choose between perfectly done pork belly with a killer green tomato chimichurri and the rich creamy bruleed butternut squash and chocolate creameux. This year, chocolate wins and Chef Ashley and her team took home the bragging rites.

The Queen City Championship Team from Piedmont Culinary Guild in Charlotte
The Queen City Championship Team from Piedmont Culinary Guild in Charlotte



Well deserved kudos to all the participating chefs  who supported the first Queen City Food Fight event and cheers to the dishes they prepared so well.    Its competition yes, but in the end its an intentional collaboration within the Charlotte culinary community to put Charlotte area chefs and restaurants front and center.  Its working. Attention is being paid.

If you didn’t attend, or perhaps weren’t aware of the event, you most certainly want to put it on your radar for next year. In fact, You’ll also want to know that the ACF and Piedmont Culinary Guild both sponsor lots of great culinary events, open to the public, throughout the year. Best to follow each organization on social media to keep abreast of what is happening and when it is taking place. In the meantime though, here is a pictorial taste of what you missed at the Food Fight with recognition to  the chefs who made it happen. For more fun photos taken throughout the event, visit my FaceBook Page at Heidi Billotto  or Heidi Billotto Cooks.

First the four plates from The Piedmont Culinary Guild chefs and then the four from the American Culinry Federation NC chefs – all in all they made for a simply delicious Sunday afternoon. #CLTRising #PCG_Charlotte #CharlotteCooksToo

PCG amuse by Blake Hartwick


PGC Amuse: Rappahannok Oyster amuse from chef Blake Hartwick of Bonterra Dining and Wine Room  in Charlotte


PCG appetizer by Paul Verica


PCG Appetizer: Chef Paul Verica of Heritage Food & Drink’s interpretation of Local Corn and crab with Roasted Bell Pepper, Basil and Chipotle


PCG entree by Jon Fortes


PCG Entree: 5 Spice heritage farm BBQ Pork Belly with deconstructed porchetta “Deviled Ham”. cripsy pork rind, root and green tomato chimichurri by Chef Jon Fortes of The Flipside Restaurant


pcg dessert by ashley bivens


PCG Dessert: Bruleed Butternut Squash & chocolte cremeux, chocolate shortbread & Ganache, Vanilla Squash puree, Squah Souffle cake, Cinnamon Ice Milk by pastry chef Ashley Bivens Boyd of 300 East and Heritage Food & Drink


acf amuse by Melissa Cherry


ACF Amuse: – “Hop, Skip, Sip to a Chilly Alibi”, Alibi Beer Poached Shrimp, corn buttermilk and goat cream, Hops garnish by Chef Melissa Cherry



ACF appertizer by


ACF Appetizer: “Carmelized Watermelon Reaper” Carolina Reaper Pressed & Pickled Watermelon, Redux of Micro greens, Mini Southern Sourdough Biscuit, Smeared Fig & Watermelon Jam by chef Kris Siuta, executive chef, Carowinds


ACF entree by chef


ACF  Entree: ” Three Sisters from the Mountains” Flash Fried Cornmeal Trout, Corn Squash and Bean Succotash, Farro Risotto, Grape and Heirloom Tomato Relish by chef Phillip Lloyd of The Art Institute in Charlotte


acf dessert by


ACF Dessert: ” Smoked peaches and Cream” Creamed Goat cheese phyllo tart, Smoked peaches, molassed cram anglaise, Sweet Charleston Tea-infused pecans, chocolate mint by chef Emma Barnes, pastry chef-instructor, CPCC


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