Delicious food was had by all!  The Judge's Choice Award went to John Eisensmith from Six Plates Wine Bar in Durham.  The People's Choice Award went to Daniel Grodence at Southern Rail in Carrboro.  It was a very tight race with Vimala's Curry Blossom Cafe coming in 2nd place by only 1 point!

Thanks again to all who came and check back soon for recipes from the chefs.


On April 25, 2013, Community Nutrition Partnership (CNP) hosted their first annual culinary showdown and raised funds to help increase access to healthy foods in underserved communities.  Five chefs competed in the Challenge using North Carolina produce. Daniel Grodence of  Southern Rail, James Naquin of Guglhupf Bakery, David Wimmers of Saint Jacques French Cuisine, John Eisensmith of Six Plates Wine Bar, and Vimala Rajendran of Vimala's Curry Blossom Café all served delectable, healthy dishes that were voted on by judges and attendees.  The sold out event included over 200 attendees judging on the “People’s Choice” award and judges voting on their favorite dish!

Chefs were given five ingredients from the weekly Veggie Van boxes and asked to combine them to create a signature dish.  Veggie Van is CNP’s version of a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture); each week Veggie Van delivers reduced cost boxes of fresh, seasonal North Carolina produce to communities with limited access to fresh healthy food. For the Local Chef Challenge, the Veggie Van brought chefs a selection of carrots, white sweet potatoes, red kale, rutabagas and red radishes to work with.  Produce was provided by Eastern Carolina Organics and The Produce Box.

Chef Naquin served a delicious sweet potato tartlet with roasted rutabagas, glazed carrots and red kale salad.  Chef Wimmers added NC flare to French cuisine with his chilled root vegetable napoleon and sweet potato carrot cake topped with fresh carrot juice caviar. Chef Eisensmith brought out some NC braised pork belly to go with his local produce: roasted carrot and rutabaga puree, wilted red kale salad with honey champagne vinaigrette.  Chef Grodence wowed the audience with his handmade roasted rutabaga ravioli in a brown butter sauce with a side of white sweet potato sticky tortina and braised kale salad. Chef Rajendran added some spice with her red kale bhaji, beef curry with roasted rutabagas, sweet potatoes, carrots and onions.

When asked about all the chefs’ dishes Kay Downer said, “It was really interesting getting to taste how the different chefs prepared each vegetable.  Everything was delicious!”  Catherine Gregory, a senior from NC State University said, “It was really well put together; there were so many people and so much food!  My favorites were Vimala’s and Guglhupf – they used the same vegetables, but packed so much flavor into it!”

Mary Johnson Rockers entertained the audience with her toe-tapping, American Folk music.  In addition to the local produce, attendees had the chance to try one of Carrboro’s newest breweries, Steel String Brewery.  Dinner was topped off with local rum cake from Shez Moi, mini tarts from Sweet T a Cakery, cupcakes from Kelley G’s cupcakes, and Bean Traders coffee.

Judges Lucia Leone (CNP President), Ed Brantley (Chef and Biggest Loser contestant), and Sharon Mahofski (Cooking Matters instructor)  chose a winner based on healthfulness, creative use of vegetables and overall taste.   Dr. Leone said, “Picking a winner was difficult because all the chefs worked so hard, but I was impressed by how Six Plates integrated the flavors of all five veggies into one simple, cohesive dish.”

At the end of the night emcee Heba Salama announced the winners.  The Judges Award went to Chef Eisensmith of Six Plate Wine Bar and the People’s Choice Award went to Chef Grodence of Southern Rail.  Chef Rajendran of Vimala’s Curryblossom Café was only one vote behind first place!  After Chef Grodence was presented the People’s Choice Award, Southern Rail staff said, “We are all so proud of Dan! He faces all the challenges of cooking in a narrow hot train car with smiles, camaraderie and a wonderful attitude.  Congratulations!”

To sum up the night, Krista Evans, UNC surgery resident stated, “Good food, good friends, GREAT cause!”

All proceeds from this event directly benefited CNP’s mission to grow healthier communities by increasing access to fresh, local, affordable foods.

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