Announcing the 2023 Champions of the 7th Annual NCRLA Chef Showdown
After three months of competition, the final results are in! The winners this season are:
2023 NCRLA Pastry Chef of the Year:
Pastry Chef Emily Parker of Native Fine Diner and Julep Contemporary Kitchen in Greenville
2023 NCRLA Mixologist & Distillery of the Year:
Mixologist Stephanie Elliott of Merle’s representing Call Family Distillers, both in Wilkesboro
Additional 2023 Award Winners Include:
2023 First Runner’s Up:
- First runner up for NCRLA Chef of the Year: Chef Luke Owens of Native Fine Diner and Julep Contemporary Kitchen in Greenville, NC
- First runner up for NCRLA Pastry Chef of the Year: Pastry Chef Savanna Brodar of The Country Club of North Carolina in Pinehurst, NC
- First runner up for NCRLA Mixologist and Distillery of the Year: Mixologist Ian Murray of Foundation in Raleigh partnering with Cook’s Mill Whiskey in Mebane, NC
2023 People’s Choice Awards, powered by the North Carolina Sweetpotato Commission
- People’s Choice for Best Chef: Bobby McFarland of Wye Hill Hospitality in Raleigh, NC
- People’s Choice for Best Pastry Chef: Jill Wasilewski of Ivory Road Café & Kitchen in Arden, NC
- People’s Choice for Best Mixologist: Sekani Akunyun of Lavender & Libations Experience partnering with Seven Jars Distillery, both in Charlotte NC
2023 Undeniably Dairy Awards, presented by The Dairy Alliance
- Best Use of Cow’s Milk Dairy in a Cocktail or Mocktail: Megan King of Antidote, representing Chemist Spirits, both in Asheville NC
- Best Use of Cow’s Milk Dairy in a Savory Dish: Chef Sera Cuni of Café Root Cellar, in Pittsboro, NC
- Best Use of Cow’s Milk Dairy in a Dessert: Pastry Chef Ann Marie Stefaney of Restaurant Constance in Charlotte NC
More than 550 attendees at the sold-out Grand Finale held on Aug 14 at the Pavilion at the Angus Barn in Raleigh were treated to tasting-sized portions of the best savory dishes, desserts, cocktails, and mocktails from 25 individual 2023 competition semi-finalists.
In addition to the top four awards, voted on by an official panel of judges, at the event, guests were invited to digitally vote for their favorite dishes and drinks served to determine the People’s Choice Award winners. This year’s People’s Choice Awards were made possible by the North Carolina Sweetpotato Commission.
Also a part of the Grand Finale this year, guests were treated to a very special wine tasting as 19 different NC award-winning wines were paired with each chef’s and pastry chef’s tasting plate. Each of the wines featured at this year’s Chef Showdown event is a Gold, Double Gold or Silver metal award winner of the 2023 NC Wine Council Awards.
Presented by Got To Be NC, the NC Department of Agriculture, the Chef Showdown features culinary and mixology competitors who showcase North Carolina proteins, produce and products in their dishes, cocktails, and mocktails.
Meet the 2023 Semi-Finalist Chefs:
Chef Ade Carrena | Dounou Cuisine, Raleigh
Pastry Chef Ann Marie Stefaney | Restaurant Constance, Charlotte
Chef Bobby McFarland | Wye Hill Hospitality, Raleigh
Pastry Chef Catie Van Slyke | Krispy Kreme, Charlotte
Pastry Chef Emily Parker | Native Fine Diner, Greenville
Chef Jamie Barnes | What the Fries, Charlotte
Pastry Chef Jill Wasilewski | Ivory Road Café & Kitchen, Arden
Chef John Wilson | Sophie’s Cork & Ale, Lexington
Chef Keith Henning | Black Powder Smokehouse, Jamestown
Chef Kyle Teears | Craften Neighborhood Food & Drink, Knightdale
Chef Luke Owens | Native Fine Diner, Greenville
Chef Malik Williams| Tap @ 1918, Rocky Mount
Chef Mauricio Huarcaya | The Green House Restaurant, Wilmington
Chef Michael Beers | River Run Country Club, Davidson
Chef Nicholas Chavez | King Neptune, Wrightsville Beach
Chef Olajuwon Mason | Kimpton Tryon Park Hotel, Charlotte
Pastry Chef Savanna Brodar | Charlotte
Chef Sera Cuni | The Root Cellar Cafe, Pittsboro & Chapel Hill
Chef Steve Boeger | Hendersonville Country Club, Hendersonville
Chef Trenton Shank | Plum Southern Kitchen & Bar, Durham
Meet the 2023 Semi-Finalist Bartenders + Distillers:
Sekani Akunyun of Lavender & Libations Experience representing Seven Jars Distillery
New for 2023: The Undeniably Dairy Awards:
New this year, a trio of “Undeniably Dairy Awards” were awarded at the Chef Showdown Grand Finale to the chef, pastry chef and bartender who best showcased the use of NC dairy products in the savory plates, the desserts and in the cocktails or mocktails, they present to judges during the season.
Competitors were not required to use dairy products in their competition dishes and cocktails, but if they did, were eligible to be considered for this trio of additional Grand Finale accolades presented by The Dairy Alliance.
The Road Getting to the 2023 Grand Finale
The 2023 preliminary rounds of culinary competition featured 76 talented chefs and pastry chefs from across the state who were selected to cook their way through the first rounds of competition on the road to the 2023 win. The 20 chefs above will advance to compete in the regional rounds and to cook for the public at the Grand Finale.
In addition, 18 individual NC bartenders, teamed with a North Carolina distillery, to compete in one of two regional rounds of mixology competition held in July 2023.
Each bartender crafted two cocktails and a mocktail for a panel of judges to consider, as they vied for one of six spots in the 2023 NCRLA Chef Showdown Grand Finale on August 14.
At stake, the coveted titles of NCRLA Chef of the Year, NCRLA Pastry Chef of the Year, NCRLA Bartender of the Year and the NCRLA Distillery of the Year, to be awarded at the competition’s Grand Finale on August 14, 2023, at The Pavilion at Angus Barn in Raleigh, NC.
NCRLA is proud to compete at some of North Carolina’s finest community college culinary schools throughout this competition, each one serving to teach and inspire the North Carolina hospitality industry of tomorrow.
The 2023 NCRLA Chef Showdown preliminary and regional rounds of culinary competition and the regional rounds of mixology competition schedule is below:
- May 8 Preliminary Round – In the Triad at Wilkes Community College Culinary School, Wilkesboro
- May 15 Preliminary Round – In the Mountains at AB Tech Community College Culinary School in Asheville
- May 22 Preliminary Round – At the Coast at Carteret Community College Culinary School in Morehead City
- June 12 Preliminary Round – In the Triangle at Wake Tech Community College School of Baking and Pastry Arts in Raleigh
- June 26 Preliminary Round – In Metrolina at Central Piedmont Community College Culinary School in Charlotte
- July 10 Regional Round – Eastern NC Mixology Competition at The Ginger Fox in Winston-Salem
- July 17 Regional Round- Western NC Regional Culinary Round at Central Piedmont Community College Culinary School in Charlotte
- July 24 Regional Round – Eastern NC Regional Culinary Round at Wake Tech Community College School of Baking and Pastry Arts in Raleigh
- July 31 Regional Round – Western NC Mixology Competition at The Ginger Fox in Winston-Salem
- August 14 – 2023 NCRLA Chef Showdown Grand Finale at The Pavilion at The Angus Barn in Raleigh, NC
The North Carolina Restaurant & Lodging Association (NCRLA) NCRLA is the driving force behind the state’s $30 billion hospitality industry. The mission is to Protect, Educate, and Promote the North Carolina hospitality industry. To learn more information about NCRLA or its membership opportunities and cost-saving benefits, please visit www.ncrla.org.
Let’s Be Social
Follow the preliminary and regional round action and see each of the dishes and cocktails created this year on the NCRLA Chef Showdown social media feeds.