No one person from the Triangle has ever brought home the coveted titles of Chef of the Year, Pastry Chef of the Year or Mixologist of the Year, but maybe this is the year and third time’s the charm? In 2016, Tim VanBeek of Durham’s Washington Duke Inn & Golf Club won People’s Choice Mixologist. Nobody else since has gotten their hands on any of the coveted titles. This is the first time the main NCRLA Chef Showdown event will take place in Charlotte, as the first two in both 2016 & 2017 were held in Raleigh.

Brand new in 2018, NCRLA decided to wisely add three regional qualifier events in Hickory, New Bern, and Raleigh, to determine which chefs would compete in the Chef Showdown main event. In the years past, only included one final competition, but with the high level of interest from chefs around the state, there was an opportunity to bring more restaurant and foodservice professionals together with regional events and then one grand finale.

The first NCRLA Chef Showdown took place as part of NCRLA’s annual North Carolina Restaurant & Lodging Expo and continues to be held in conjunction. This year’s third annual NCRLA Chef Showdown, presented by Got to be NC Agriculture, features some of the most creative chefs and mixologists from around North Carolina competing to be named NCRLA Chef of the Year, NCRLA Pastry Chef of the Year and NCRLA Mixologist of the Year.

” This year’s slate of contenders includes some of the most innovative and talented chefs in our state. At the showdown, these chefs will use North Carolina ingredients to demonstrate their creativity and shine a light on our incredible hospitality industry. Attendees will get a taste of why North Carolina’s culinary scene is one of the best in the nation,

— Lynn Minges, NCRLA President


A total of 3 Triangle area locals will be represented out of 15 from the entire state – sorted into two food categories, savory and sweet, in Charlotte on August 27 at the main NCRLA Chef Showdown event, which takes place at Aria at Founders Hall in the Bank of America Center in Uptown Charlotte. There are a total of 15 savory chefs and 6 sweet chefs competing this year in the finals.

Chefs will prepare and serve tasting-sized portions to event attendees. The dishes, judged by five professional culinary experts, receive scores on presentation, taste, and use of local ingredients from North Carolina. Judges will be announced in the coming weeks. The final competition will also feature six North Carolina distilleries partnered with top-shelf mixologists to determine the NCRLA Mixologist of the Year, which was introduced in 2017. These participants will be announced in the coming weeks as well.

About Chef Thomas Card

Prior to joining Counting House in early 2017, Thomas Card worked as executive sous chef at The Fearrington House Inn under the direction of James Beard Foundation Best Chef semifinalist Colin A. Bedford, where he helped manage all of the property’s restaurants ranging from banquets and catering to casual and fine dining. During his tenure, the Fearrington House Restaurant was named one of the “100 Best Restaurants in America for 2016” by OpenTable diners.

Executive Chef Thomas Card - Counting House NC
Executive Chef Thomas Card | Counting House in Durham, NC

With close to 20 years of experience in the restaurant industry, his resume also includes time at the prestigious 5 star rated Umstead Hotel and Spa in Cary. Card was extremely fortunate and excited to continue to be a part of the Triangle area’s dynamic community of restaurants, working with local producers and ingredients from the entire region.

About Chef Nicole Lourie

Nicole Lourie is a well versed pastry chef who brings a creative and grounded vision to her work and entire team. As a child, she spent the afternoons with her Noni, watching cooking shows and practicing in the kitchen, planting the dream to become a chef. Since then, she has pursued that single goal with a calm and optimistic energy that has earned her a Bachelor of Science in Baking and Pastry and a Masters in Teaching Culinary Education from the esteemed Providence campus of Johnson & Wales.

Prepared with an outstanding education base, Lourie has since held positions in a wide variety of properties ranging from smaller restauranst, to the five star, five diamond property, Fearrington House. These experiences have all lead her to her current role as the Sous Chef for the Counting House of 21c Museum Hotel in Durham, North Carolina.

Chef Nicole Lourie Counting House Durham NC
Chef Nicole Lourie | Counting House Restaurant – Durham NC

Pulling from her years of varied experience and personal determination to continue to grow, she oversees a small team who’s responsibility includes freshly baked bread, plated pastries and specialty cakes. With regard to the history of her craft, Lourie is currently working toward earning the title of Pastry Chef by pushing her limits through competition.

She is the chef who is light hearted and friendly while still maintaining the structure and respect of traditional kitchens. On the off chance you don’t see her in the kitchen, she is best found socializing or preparing for her amateur debut as a power lifter.

About Chef Teddy Diggs

From the culinary spotlight of D.C. and Martha’s Vineyard to the burgeoning dining scene of Chapel Hill, N.C., Chef Teddy Diggs has embarked on a life-long quest to craft menus that unveil the stories of exceptional ingredients.

Chef Teddy discovered his fervor for cooking at an early age, piqued by the bold approach and Italian sensibilities of the culinary mogul Emeril Lagasse. Teddy’s fertile passion for regional cooking led him to pursue his education at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park. Upon graduation, Teddy embraced opportunities in our nation’s capital under the tutelage of Maestro’s star chef, Fabio Trabocchi, and Barton Seaver, renowned sustainable seafood authority.

Chef Teddy Diggs Chapel Hill NC
Chef Teddy Diggs | Chapel Hill, NC

Soon thereafter, Teddy became the opening executive chef at the distinguished Ripple restaurant in D.C. where he served Italian-inspired casual comforts. In 2010, he was lured to Martha’s Vineyard to preside over Homeport Restaurant, The Beach Plum Inn and Art Cliff Dinner, a frequent dining spot for President Obama and the First Lady. Chef Teddy’s elegant yet honest cooking garnered accolades such as Star Chef’s Top 10 Cravable Dishes and earned him recognition one of 16 Chefs to Watch in 2016 by Restaurant Hospitality and one of New England’s rising star chefs.

Chef Teddy’s rich experience and honed talent manifest in full at Il Palio, Chapel Hill’s premiere dining spot at The Siena Hotel and North Carolina’s only AAA-rated Four Diamond Italian restaurant. Under Chef’s guidance, Il Palio launched its first renovation in three decades, debuting a re-imagined menu that explores all of Italy’s 20 regions.

Chef’s cooking showcases the quintessential Italian concept of balance while interweaving subtle, rustic flavors from his custom wood-fired grill. Backed by extensive personal research, Chef Teddy provides a platform—a time and a place—to unveil the story of each ingredient through respectful and simple preparation.

Chef Teddy stands as a passionate champion of sustainable food systems, but his commitment surpasses the standard “farm-to-fork” approach. In Teddy’s vision, effective sustainability explores how the product is harvested, who harvests the product and ultimately, how well the product feeds the community. Teddy forges personal relationships with farmers and fisherman to help them utilize undiscovered resources and secure new revenue streams.

He’s been known to source his kitchen from local bumper crops or invite farmers with neglected forests to provide Il Palio’s wood supply. Through these vested partnerships, Teddy uncovers new inroads to resource management that bolster the long-term viability of local foods.

A storyteller, a guide, an artisan – Chef Teddy Diggs touches each moment of the ingredient’s journey, and his cooking celebrates the culinary narrative that he so carefully shepherds from soil and water to plate and palate.

So who do you think will win what this year? Please be sure to hit us up on Twitter @919BlogNC or visit our Facebook page at and let us know! We would love to hear from ya.

This post was created in collaboration with the 919 Blog editorial team for exclusive digital publication on via The Triangle Blog Network