You’re Invited to NCRLA Chef Showdown Grand Finale Aug 8, 2022

File this one under “Love What I Do.” As many of you know, in 2015, I first contracted with the NCRLA (North Carolina Restaurant & Lodging Association) to plan what is now known as the NCRLA Chef Showdown.

President and CEO Lynn Minges and her team asked me to conceptualize a culinary competition that brought together North Carolina chefs and pastry chefs with local farms and producers.

The mission: to plan a fun evening of local food. With NC chefs at the core, it’s all to benefit the NCRLA in particular, and the North Carolina hospitality industry, at large. No mystery baskets or on the spot shopping like on TV. In this competition, competitors create plates & cocktails that represent who they are on the plate and in the glass.

chefs group shot
There I am front and center with all of the chefs who competed in the 2018 NCRLA Chef Showdown. ( I’m the one in the polkadot shoes!)

Today, I am proud that the Got To Be NC NCRLA Chef Showdown, now in its sixth season is a year-long culinary and mixology competition.

Cheers to the NCRLA

I am also proud to continue to run and organize this annual event in partnership with the NCRLA.

As is the case every year, the hard working team at the NCRLA has been amazing. Each year, NCRLA staff has helped to add to the excitement and growth of this annual event.

This year, my partner in crime and co-organizer from the NCRLA side of things is Inez Nicholson. It’s been so much fun getting to know her as we’ve worked our way through five preliminary rounds and 4 semi final rounds on culinary and mixology competition.

Here we are, back in April at the Beaufort Hotel in Beaufort NC just before our first round of preliminary competition. HAHA, I do love my sparkly gold tennis shoes; but next time, I’ll wear taller heels!

Find and Follow Each of These NC Chefs

If you follow my social media and subscribe to the blog, then you know. I love being able to shine a spotlight on so many NC chefs and bartenders. Even more, I love sharing all the local products. In this competition its all about the locally sourced produce and proteins that appear on each plate at every round of competition.

With the North Carolina Department of Agriculture as the event’s presenting sponsor, the GotToBeNC factor weighs in heavily. Panels of judges score each competing cocktail, savory dish and dessert, looking for the local love.

Follow each of these chefs on their social media feeds, and you’ll see how many local farmers and producers they each represent. Not just for this competition but in their restaurants, day to day. You’ll also want to put all of their restaurants on your bucket list. Let them be your guideposts as you eat your way across the state. You can thank me later.

And while you are following chefs on social media, follow my good friend Chef Chad Blackwelder. Chad is a Marketing Specialist for the NC Department of Agriculture. He cooks with local products, produce and proteins all the time and when he posts pictures of all he cooks and eats, it is always inspiring,

How this Culinary Competition Works

As is the case each year, chefs from across the state apply to compete in the NCRLA Chef Showdown in February and March. This year, 60 NC chefs made the initial cut. You can see this talented list of NC culinarians here.


These hardworking chefs have been competing since April. Each cooking their way through one of five preliminary rounds.

So lovely to partner with each of these places as one of our preliminary round venues:

  • Morehead City at The Carteret Community College culinary school
  • Winston-Salem NC at Bobby Boys Bakeshop
  • Asheville NC at the culinary school at AB Tech Community College
  • Charlotte at Central Piedmont Community College School of Hospitality
  • Raleigh at the Wake Tech Community College School of Baking and Pastry Arts

Each competing chef presented his or her competition plate to a panel of three judges – all chefs as well.

On the plate, as much local NC product as makes sense to the composition of the dish. After all, agriculture is the number one industry in North Carolina.

Come Taste for Yourself

Since we began in April, all of these preliminary and regional rounds of competition have been private events. It’s really all a rather clandestine, until now!

Now, I invite you to come and taste for yourself. Don’t Wait. Do It Today. Get Tickets for the Aug 8 NCRLA Chef Showdown here. Do it before they all sell out.

Going for the Gold

As the judges scored each individual dish in each of the preliminary rounds, the playing fields began to narrow. In June, 20 chefs ( 15 chefs and 5 pastry chefs) moved on to one of two regional rounds, held in July. Each of the 20 chefs cooked for the same panel of 4 judges with hopes of scoring the top scores and therefor one of the top titles.

Each of this year’s regional round judges is also a former NCRLA Chef Showdown champion and so very aware of all a competition like this takes to grab the win.

The 2022 Panel of regional round judges, from left, Chef Saif Rahman, 2021 NCRLA Chef of the Year; Chef Matthew Krenz, 2016 Chef of the Year; Pastry Chef Tie Whitaker, 2021 Pastry Chef of the Year and Chef Steven Goff, 2019 Chef of the Year.

In the balance, at each of the 2022 Regional rounds of competition: The coveted titles of NCRLA Chef of the Year, NCRLA Pastry Chef of the Year, NCRLA Bartender of the Year and NCRLA Distillery of the Year.  

Because Man (and Woman) Cannot Live By Food Alone

And then, there is the local drink. As our chefs are preparing for the regional rounds, 12 different North Carolina distilleries partnered with 12 different NC bartenders to compete in this year’s expanded Mixology competition.

Our 2022 Trio of Mixology Competition Judges was comprised of Peter Grills, GM of the beautiful Beaufort Hotel in Beaufort NC; Shannon Healy, owner of Alley Twenty-Six in Durham NC, a 2022 James Beard finalist for best bar program; and our 2021 Mixologist of the Year, Colleen Hughes of Supperland in Charlotte NC.

These Six NC Bartenders will be shaking and stirring things up at the Aug 8 Grand Finale

On June 20 and 27 we held the semi final mixology rounds. First, in Charlotte NC, hosted by the Goodyear House restaurant; and then, the following week at Vidrio restaurant in Raleigh NC. The result: six mixology teams move on as finalists in the 2022 NCRLA Chef Showdown.

Here’s who will be there to stir and shake things up

So, What Does All This Mean To You?

Our “Big Night” is right around the corner on Aug 8, 2022 in Raleigh at The Pavilion at Angus Barn when these same 15 NC Chefs, five NC Pastry Chefs and the six NC Mixologists representing six NC Distilleries will all be on hand offering samples of their final dishes in an ambulatory tasting of local food and drink, open to the public. That’s You!! Tickets on Sale now, online at the NCRLA Chef Showdown website.

Here’s just a peak of all your will be sipping and sampling…

How to Eat and Drink Locally

This evening promises to be some of the most fun you’ll have eating and drinking locally sourced products this summer; and the best part is, after you’ve sipped and sampled, You Get To Be The Judge, as you vote for your favorites in the 2022 Chef Showdown People’s Choice Awards, brought to you by Performance Food Service.

As you can imagine, an event of this magnitude doesn’t run itself. I am also proud to have involved so many local and regional sponsors, happy to support this event. You can meet them all here.

Which NC Chefs are in the NCRLA Chef Showdown Finals? So Glad You Asked…

Be prepare to taste all sort of local from this list of talented NC chefs and pastry chefs. They will each create sample sized servings of the same dishes pictured here. The same ones they served to the judges.

Sharing the Scoop on the NCRLA Chef Showdown

This year, my friend NC radio and podcast personality Kitty Kinnin, will be the emcee for the Chef Showdown Aug 8 festivities.

Kitty and I have know of each other for years, and share a lot of mutual respect. Over the past coupe of month’s, it been fun reconnecting over all of this food and drink.

The incredible chocolate souffle and glasses of port in the photo here, was very much enjoyed in the wine cellar kitchen at the Angus Barn in Raleigh. But that’s another story for another time… Meanwhile you’ll love connecting with Kitty at the NCRLA Chef Showdown as much as you’ll love listening to her on the radio and on her new podcast.

That’s right! In addition to a daily show on the radio, Kitty also hosts a fun food-centric podcast called Sound Palate. You can follow it wherever and whenever you listen to podcasts; and you simply must tune in… Be sure to #TellThemHeidiSentYou

Just after we announced the top 20 chefs to be 2022 finalists, Kitty had me on her radio broadcast at 96.1 WBBB to talk about all things Chef Showdown. Stay tuned for more from Kitty and she continues to interview chefs and talk about the 2022 competition right on up to the Aug 8 Grand Finale.

NCRLA Chef Showdown in the News

In case you missed it, here is the link to the radio interview we did just after the Raleigh preliminary round in June. Listen in and watch a video featuring each of the 20 chef finalists here.

And, of course, It’s always fun to chat with my friend Ken Smith from WRAL also in Raleigh NC. Ken is another self proclaimed foodie and we recently connected over a Zoom call to talk about all the excitement surrounding the 2022 NCRLA Chef Showdown.  In case you missed it you can watch and listen here.

Most recently, several of the Charlotte area finalists made appearance on WCNC’s Charlotte Today Show in a series of Cooking and Bartending segments the station called, “The Road to the NCRLA Chef Showdown”

In Case You Missed It, “tune in” via the links to each segment below – recipes coming soon, I’m typing as fast as I can !

The Road to the NCRLA Chef Showdown as seen on WCNC’s Charlotte Today Show

Heidi Billotto shares all the delicious details on where to get tickets and how You Get To Be The Judge in the voting for People’s Choice favorites.

2019 Chef of the Year, Steven Goff talks about being a 2022 NCRLA Chef Showdown judge and shows how to cook fresh NC Seafood in Carolina Cooker Cast Iron Pans

2022 NCRLA Chef Showdown finalist Phillip Platoni shares one component of his competition dish and serves it on roasted local carrots.

One of this year’s NCRLA Chef Showdown Finalists, Pastry Chef Savanna Broder serves the Iced Tea Caramel from her competition dessert over a homemade peach cobbler.

But look, there’s more…

2022 NCRLA Chef Showdown Finalist Andres Prussing makes a locally sourced Hoppin’ John, one of the touches on his competition plate.

Another NCRLA Chef Showdown Finalist, Oscar Johnson makes a one skillet savory vegetable summer hash with local rice and local lamb, a salute to the same Charlotte area farmers he represented on his competition plate.

2022 NCRLA Chef Showdown Mixology Finalist Bartender David Bowen is joined by NC Distiller Daniel Spivey to share the cocktail they be serving to the crowd at the Grand Finale on Aug 8

Rounding up the week-long series, NCRLA Chef Showdown Finalist Charles Gardiner shares a recipe for a pork panzanella salad with a NC SweetPotato dressing.

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