Heidi Billotto

NCRLA Culinary Competition Continues

Time for an update on the North Carolina Culinary Competition of the year – the 2019 NCRLA Chef Showdown! This month marks the next phase of competition with two regional rounds. 20 chefs from across the state continue to compete as the playing field begins to narrow.

The NCRLA, The North Carolina Restaurant Lodging Association, holds events across the state throughout the year to promote and celebrate North Carolina’s hospitality industry.

It is my pleasure to partner with the team at the NCRLA, to help organize and host the annual NCRLA Chef Showdown. This is the 4th year for this much anticipated culinary competition.

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Yours truly, Heidi Billotto, right, with Mindy Wharton (left) and Laura Hayden (center) of the NCRLA, photographed upstairs at Vidrio restaurant in Raleigh, our host venue for the 2019 Raleigh Regional Round of Competition.

In previous years, we’ve only held three regional competitions. Then, a dozen or so select chefs cooked for a panel of judges on the NCRLA Chef Showdown stage.

Cooking For The Win

This year we’ve upped the anti. Our 2019 season of the NCRLA Chef Showdown started with 5 preliminary rounds. 50 chefs from across the states cooked for panels of judges in each region. You can read more about the preliminary rounds of competition here.

Casting a wider net this year, gave more talented chefs a chance to participate. After 5 preliminary rounds of culinary competition among some 50 chefs, 20 chefs are now cooking to win. Each preparing a dish to present to a panel of four judges at one of two regional rounds.

These same 20 chefs will be at the Sept 30 NCRLA Chef Showdown final event. This grand finale to our year of culinary competition takes place at Bay 7 in Durham NC. This event will be an interactive tasting event for the public. Chefs will recreate the regional round dishes they are presenting to the judges this month. Guests will be voting for People’s Choice award honors. Tickets for the Sept 30 fete are on sale now!

Get Your Tickets Now

Join me in September for a grand evening of local food and drink in Durham NC.

On Sept 30, one chef will be named the NCRLA Chef of the Year. Another will take away NCRLA Pastry Chef of the Year honors.

At the finale, guests will also enjoy a mixology competition! One of 6 competing mixologists will be named the NCRLA Mixologist of the Year. Going hand in hand with that honor, the North Carolina distillery that mixologist represents will be name the NCRLA Distillery of the Year!

Heidi shares a recap on the NCRLA Chef Showdown Regionals on WRAL in Raleigh

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The first Regional Round of this culinary competition took place in Raleigh on Monday Aug 12; the second round will take place in Charlotte on Aug 19. Ten chefs from across the state will participate in each round.

The day after, the Raleigh Regional, I was delighted to appear on WRAL on their new 9 am hour show. It was fun to catch up with my friend, morning WRAL anchor and local food lover, Ken Smith. As you can see, we had a chance to recap the regional action and talk Chef Showdown details.

In case you missed it, Here is the segment, talking about the Raleigh regional competition. If you don’t see the video here, simply click through to my website at HeidiBillottoFood.com.

Raleigh Regional Culinary Competition

As I mention in the interview with Ken, I was in Raleigh NC on Aug 11 and 12.

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My home away from home this weekend was the beautiful Marriott Raleigh City Center. This lovely hotel was our lodging sponsor for this round of culinary competition.

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The Raleigh Marriott City Center is within walking distance of just about everything, including 70 plus Raleigh restaurants.

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But, to eat well when you stay at the Marriott, you don’t have to go far. Just off the hotel lobby, you’ll find Rye Bar & Southern Kitchen. A wonderful hidden gem you’ll enjoy for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

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Speaking of good eats in Raleigh, the venue for this leg of the regional NCRLA Chef Showdown culinary competition was Vidrio restaurant. Vidrio is a wonderful Mediterranean restaurant located at 500 Glenwood Ave in Raleigh.

The Chef Line up in Raleigh

Ten more chefs wait to compete in the Charlotte regional round on Aug 19, 2019.

Meanwhile, on Monday Aug 12, 10 chefs from Raleigh, Durham, Southern Pines, Warsaw, Cedar Point, Wallace and Clayton NC were at Vidrio, cooking for the win.

The list of contenders in the Raleigh regional round follows along with photos of the dishes they each entered into competition.

Chefs are listed in random order, I just thought it would be sweet to start with dessert.

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Chef Tie Whittaker’s sweet white take on “Corn Pudding”,

Pastry chef Tie Whitaker owner of Buttermilk Boutique in Clayton, NC  

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Braised Heritage Farms Cheshire Pork is the featured protein for chef Jake Vollmar

Chef Jake Vollmar – River Landing Country Club in Wallace, NC

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Somen Noodles with Melon from Chef Tom Cuomo of Papa Shogun

Thomas Cuomo, chef and owner, Papa Shogun in Raleigh, NC

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Joyce Farms NC Pheasant with celery puree, local mushroom spoonbread and an herb and floral garnish from chef Richard Miller

Richard Miller, executive chef at Butcher & Bull in Winston-Salem, NC

But, wait, that’s not all – there are five more chefs competing in this round…

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Braised NC Pork Cheeks with a poblano vanilla sauce from Chef Thomas Card of the Counting House

Chef Thomas Card of the Counting House at the 21c Hotel in Durham, NC

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Fresh speared off the NC coast, tuna with melon and a sweet potato “cannoli” from chef Nicolas Chavez

Chef Nicholas Chavez, line cook at Sedgefield Country Club in Greensboro, NC

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Herb Crusted Tallow aged Brasstown NY strip with foraged chanterelles and more from Chef Matthew Hannon

Matthew Hannon, chef de cuisine, at Ashten’s Restaurant in Southern Pines, NC

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Decontructed Gumbo from Chef Brandon Sheppard served on a locally crafted plate from HAANDS pottery in Burlington NC

Brandon Sheppard , chef and owner, Urban Street Eats in Cedar Point, NC

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NC Cobia and summer ratatouille from Chef Kyle Teears

Chef Kyle Teears of Whiskey Kitchen in Raleigh, NC   

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Chef Amanda Ezzell’s tribute to NC Muscadines in the form of candied jalapeno and muscadine pimento cheese with lacy cornbread crackers.

Amanda Ezzell, chef and owner Ezzell’s Catering and Somethin’ Good Food truck in Warsaw, NC  

It is my pleasure to document all the action as these talented chefs crafted these 10 different plates; and then to introduce each chef as they presented their individual dishes to our regional panel of judges.

Chef Showdown Culinary Competition Regional Panel of Judges

It has also been my pleasure to work with an esteemed panel of judges for these two regional rounds of competition.

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Catherine Rabb ( far left) – Instructor Johnson & Wales University – Charlotte and Co-Owner of Fenwicks Restaurant, Charlotte

Geoff Blount ( front right) – Baking and Pastry Arts Chair, International Culinary Institute of Myrtle Beach at Horry-Georgetown Technical College

Tim Parrish ( far right) – Domestic Marketing Manager, NC Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services

David Moore ( back left) – Director of Operations for Cribb’s Hospitality Group and Owner of his own, Phosphor Hospitality Consulting.

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This tireless panel of regional judges tasted through each of the dishes and thoughtfully asked questions of each chef, carefully considering all the details. They offered comments and scored dishes on 5 different levels including execution, technique, number and best use of North Carolina ingredients, presentation and of course taste.

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Next week they will do the same in Charlotte. Overall winners will be selected based on the judges scores and considerations of each of the 20 chefs competing in the regional rounds. The winners will be announced in Durham on Sept 30.

Stay tuned for more

Stay tuned for a follow up post on Tuesday Aug 20 with all of the detail from the Charlotte round of regionals. Its been an exciting summer of food and fun, I can’t wait for you to taste it all in September. Read more about the Mixology competition taking place on Sept 30 at the end of the post here.

And just to remind you, the Sept 30 Grand Finale of the 2019 NCRLA Chef Showdown will take place at Bay 7, a part of the American Tobacco Campus in Durham NC. Tickets are available at the Chef Showdown website, here. Be sure to #TellThemHeidiSentYou

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