CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Many restaurants are still navigating tough times with chefs doing the best they can to keep kitchens afloat. One of the state’s biggest competitions is usually a fun event for them, but this year, it’s taken on a whole new meaning.
Chefs have been dealing with staffing shortages and empty restaurants throughout the pandemic, and this competition is a much-needed boost.
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If you’ve seen any of the food competition shows on TV, then you have an idea of what the North Carolina Restaurant & Lodging Association Chef Showdown is like.
"Super exciting, I'm really excited about it," said Savanna Brodar, the pastry chef at Merchant and Trade and Angeline’s in Uptown Charlotte, adding, "Dessert is my favorite thing in the world -- I would have dessert over regular food any day."
She’s one of a handful of chefs from the Charlotte area now in the finals of this statewide competition.
Andres Prussing of Stoke is another local chef in the competition. Both say the competition is a welcome relief after a rough ride this past year.
"I was moving up in my career and then everything crashed when hotels started closing," Prussing said.
He says he was without a job for eight months.
The chef showdown helps put them and their restaurants in the spotlight and gives them a chance to swap notes with others who know what they’re going through.
One of the competition's organizers said they had an overwhelming number of chefs apply this year. The winners are named best in their category for the state: NCRLA Chef of the Year and NCRLA Pastry Chef of the Year. The competition is judged based both on the taste and presentation of their dishes as well as the use of local ingredients.
The grand finale takes place Monday, Aug. 9, from 6-8:30 p.m. at the Angus Barn's Bay 7 in Durham. Click here for more information on how to get tickets.