It’s official!

The best chefs and bartenders in the state of North Carolina are now known.

At least, that is, they’re known based on a statewide competition held on Monday, Sept. 30 by one culinary group – the NC Restaurant & Lodging Association (NCRLA).

Though there was some local talent from the triad in the finals of the competition, the best chefs and drink mixers in the minds of the judges are, in the end, from other parts of North Carolina.   Nicholas Chavez, from Sedgefield Country Club, was representing the Greensboro area but was not one of the winners.

The best chefs in the state were crowned this weekend at the 2019 NCRLA Chef Showdown, the fourth annual cooking competition of its kind.

The NCRLA, which held the competition, calls itself  “the voice of North Carolina’s $23 billion restaurant, foodservice and lodging industry.”  The group announced the winners of the Monday showdown held at Angus Barn’s Bay 7 in Durham.

So here are the chefs, restaurants and distilleries you should seek out as you travel around the state…


  • Steven Goff, of AUX Bar in Asheville, won the coveted NCRLA Chef of the Year Award.
  • Jamie Turner, of Earl’s Grocery and Soul Food Sessions in Charlotte, earned the NCRLA Pastry Chef of the Year Award
  • Johnny Burritt, representing Apothecary Beverage Company in Asheville, took home the NCRLA Mixologist of the Year Award.
  • Chemist Spirits in Asheville won Distillery of the Year.
  • Cory Haigler, The Westin Charlotte in Charlotte,won the People’s Choice Savory Award.
  • Tie Whittaker of Buttermilk Boutique in Raleigh won the People’s Choice Pastry Award.
  • Jimmy Huyhn, representing Copper Barrel Distillery in Wilkesboro,won the People’s Choice Specialty Cocktail & Distillery Award.


Many of the events were judged by a panel of industry experts “based on the presentation and taste of the dish as well as the best use and number of local North Carolina ingredients on each plate.”

For the first time ever this year, the NCRLA introduced five statewide preliminary rounds ahead of two regional rounds in Raleigh and Charlotte.  A total of 42 chefs collectively competed in preliminary rounds in Morehead City, Asheville, Charlotte, Greensboro and Chapel Hill, with hopes of moving forward and winning the crown.

At the event, the NC Department of Agriculture also named its “Culinary Ambassador Team” –an elite team of chefs who will be the culinary voice of the NCDA:  Goff, Richard Gras, Haigler, Turner, Whittaker and Mary Jayne Wilson will now advocate the use of North Carolina food and beverage products in restaurants and retail outlets across the state.

The presenting sponsor of the Chef Showdown was Got to Be NC Agriculture.

The North Carolina Restaurant & Lodging Association was established in 1947 and the group works to advance the state’s restaurant, foodservice and lodging industry.