NCRLA Chef Showdown Preview: Matt Hannon

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I wanted to share an upcoming, super fun event that is finally being hosted in Charlotte (after 2 years in Raleigh): The NCRLA (North Carolina Restaurant and Lodging Association) Chef Showdown. In getting prepared for this inspiring event on August 27th, 2018, I had the opportunity to get to know a few of the competitors a little better. I Capturewanted to share their stories with you and a little bit of what inspires them to compete in this event. First, here is a little bit of information about the event so hopefully you can attend!

21 North Carolina chefs and 6 mixologists, representing 6 distilleries from across the state, will be there competing for the titles of NCRLA Chef of the Year, NCRLA Pastry Chef of the Year, and NCRLA Mixologist of the Year.

I highly recommend that you join us by getting your tickets today. The link for reservations is at:

Not only do you get to watch these North Carolina world-class chefs, pastry chefs, and mixologists compete, but you’ll get to walk from table to table, meet the chefs, and taste everything, too. Charlotte’s very own Heidi Billotto ( will be there as co-host with Lamonte “Coach Lamonte” Odums, who is a regular co-host on WBTV’s Morning Break! Twelve of the chefs and the 6 mixologists (who have moved on to the final stage of competition) will not only be serving the crowd, but they will be presenting their dishes and cocktails to the panel of expert judges who will be scoring on technique, presentation, creativity and taste of the dishes and drinks. They will also be judged on the best use of North Carolina ingredients. Plus, you and I will get to cast our votes for our favorites as a part of the People’s Choice Award! (Yay!)

Here is a list of the competitors:

Find more information on the NCRLA Chef Showdown’s social media too: Facebook, ,Instagram or Twitter.

(note: I was provided a complimentary ticket (valued at $125) to the NCRLA Chef Showdown and the dinner at no cost, in exchange for this blog post, however all opinions are my own.) 


Introducing 2018 NCRLA Chef Showdown competitor : Matt Hannon of Ashten’s in Southern Pines OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The first time we communicated, not only was it evident that Matt Hannon (@localchefmatt on IG) was passionate about the restaurant, Ashten’s at Southern Pines, but also about the town of Southern Pines.  After discussing a time to meet, Matt shared that he really loved his town and encouraged me to come and stay for a night (which we did!)   (Matt also shared that not only has Southern Pines been rated the safest town in America and has a hometown feel, but there is a to do: golfing, horseback riding, etc.) 

Matt, first off, is a huge proponent of @GotToBeNC and using local products in his cooking, which is what lead him to want to compete in the NCRLA Chef Showdown.  He really believes in using NC agriculture (including the seafood, meats, and veggies), and can when eating his dishes, he can name all of the local farmers he uses in each of his dishes.   Matt believes that ingredients should speak for themselves, and when you source the best ingredients, and keep the cooking simple, you’ll end up with the best dishes. 

(See Link for my dinner at Ashten’s and details on Matt’s dishes: ashtens-in-southern-pines-nc) Here are a few quick pictures from the meal: 

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During the semi-finals, Matt made a East Branch Ginger NC Shrimp and Johnston County Country Ham Dumplings, served over Curried Priest Farms thumb line carrots, MacC’s Family Farm Baby Squash, and Carolina Gold Rice with a Honeysuckle Cheerwine Sweet Chili Glaze. 

During my conversation with Matt, I learned that he believes some of the best chefs in North Carolina do not just work in the big cities, but that the culinary communities in small towns also have a lot to offer.  Knowing how well Matt uses local ingredients, we are all in for a real treat on August 27th!


Remember, one of the best parts of this event is that anyone can buy tickets and come, just see the link:  Hope to see you there!

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