RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCT) — Two Greenville chefs took home top honors on Monday during the North Carolina Restaurant and Lodging Association 2023 Chef Showdown grand finale.

Greenville-born Native Fine Diner’s Emily Park took home Pastry Chef of the Year, and Luke Owens was recognized as the Chef of the Year First Runner-Up. There were 24 chefs and mixologists in the competition, which was held at Raleigh’s Pavilion at the Angus Barn.

Two Greenville chefs in finals of statewide competition

More than 500 attendees were able to sample numerous food, pastry and cocktail creations and vote for their favorites to win a People’s Choice award in each category. The winners of the 2023 Chef Showdown are:  

2023 Winners:

NCRLA Chef of the Year: Adé Carrena of Dounou Cuisine in Raleigh 

NCRLA Pastry Chef of the Year: Emily Parker of Native Fine Diner in Greenville 

NCRLA Mixologist and Distillery of the Year: Stephanie Elliott of Merle’s representing the Call Family Distillers in Wilkesboro  

2023 First Runner’s Up

Chef Luke Owens of Native Fine Diner in Greenville  

Pastry Chef Savanna Brodar of The Country Club of North Carolina in Pinehurst   

Mixologist Ian Murray of Foundation in Raleigh representing Distiller Cook’s Mill Whiskey in Mebane 

2023 People’s Choice Awards powered by the North Carolina Sweetpotato Commission

People’s Choice Chef: Bobby McFarland of Wye Hill Hospitality in Raleigh 

People’s Choice Pastry Chef: Jill Wasilewski of Ivory Road Café & Kitchen in Arden 

People’s Choice Specialty Cocktail: Sekani Akunyun of Lavender & Libations Experience representing Seven Jars Distillery in Charlotte 

2023 Undeniably Dairy Awards, presented by the Dairy Alliance

Best Use of Cow’s Milk Dairy in a Cocktail or Mocktail: Megan King of Antidote at Chemist Spirits 

Best Use of Cow’s Milk Dairy in a Savory Dish: Chef Sera Cuni of Café Root Cellar  

Best Use of Cow’s Milk Dairy in a Dessert: Pastry Chef Ann Marie Stefaney of Restaurant Constance  

“NCRLA’s seventh Chef Showdown continues to showcase the incredible talent of our chefs, pastry chefs, bartenders and distilleries from across the state,” said Lynn Minges, president and CEO of NCRLA. “The energy, creativity and passion of all of the competitors featuring our state’s freshest ingredients paired with North Carolina wines was both delicious and inspiring.” 

The competition began back in March with a record-breaking 94 competitors vying for the top awards. The 24 chefs and mixologists at the Grand Finale advanced through five preliminary rounds, two semi-final rounds and two mixology rounds in Winston-Salem. 

“Interest in local foods has never been stronger and this partnership and competition has been great because North Carolina farm fresh ingredients are the stars of every dish, pastry and beverage,” said Troxler. “Throughout this partnership, we have worked together to help diversify, innovate and strengthen North Carolina’s food and agriculture businesses and farms. Congratulations to every competing chef, pastry chef and mixologist and thank you for showcasing the freshness and flavor of North Carolina agricultural products.”