An Italian concept in NoDa with a notable beverage program
November 14, 2023
Here are our 2023 Chef of the Year, Chef to Watch, Mixologist of the Year and more
On Monday, Nov. 13, Charlotte’s hospitality industry and the city’s most dedicated diners gathered to honor Unpretentious Palate‘s 2023 People of the Year at The UPPY Awards. Winners were announced live at the event and shared a few words of acceptance, and the joyful night was a reunion for friends in the industry. Thank you to everyone who joined us for our third annual celebration! If you’d like to support UP and our mission to highlight the city’s culinary professionals, consider becoming a member today.
Congratulations to all of our winners and finalists!
Farmer(s) of the Year: Wisdom & Cherie Jzar, Deep Roots CPS Farm
Located in northwest Charlotte, Deep Roots CPS Farm covers only seven acres, but the Jzars get the most out of every square inch of their urban farm. They grow a wide variety of vegetables, herbs, and fruits — as well as raising goats, hens, and chickens, plus a beekeeping operation — to sell at local farmers markets. The farm is also an agritourism destination offering special farm visit events and other activities. In addition, they have become leaders in nurturing the area farming community by organizing a farmers network, as well as farmer mentoring programs.
Hiram Ramirez, Urban Gourmet Farms
Joe & Amy Rohrer, Boy & Girl Farm
Food Artisan of the Year: Raffaele Patrizi, Mano Bella Artisan Foods
Originally from Rome, Raffaele Patrizi, along with his American-born wife Madison, launched Mano Bella Artisan Foods in the early days of the pandemic and their business has continually expanded. Found at The Market at 7th Street as well as a number of local farmers markets, they craft a range of fresh pastas (including gluten-free options), as well as fresh mozzarella, take-and-bake dishes, baked goods, and other Italian specialty items. The 7th Street location also features a small trattoria where Uptown diners can enjoy a number of regional Italian dishes.
Cristina Rojas Agurcia, The Batch House
Elinn Hesse, Cold Hearted Gelato
Food Truck of the Year: Boujee Soul Food Truck
Originally from Bennettsville, South Carolina, Chef Lavonna Johnson Quick’s food offers all the comfort and deliciousness true soul food is known for — with some international twists. From the braised oxtail sliders to the chicken & red velvet waffles and the innovative collard green and lobster wontons, it’s no wonder this food truck has amassed a legion of loyal fans. Boujee Soul Food also operates a takeout business at City Kitch.
Cutting Board CLT
Katsu Kart Sando Shop
presented by Julie Everakes, Remax Executive Real Estate
Chef of the Year (non-traditional): Awo Amenumey, Eh’vivi
As profiled at Unpretentious Palate, Awo Amenumey is bringing authentic Ghanaian cuisine to North Carolina. Through a series of pop-up dinners throughout the state, chef Amenumey has introduced southern U.S. diners to West African cuisine — with its bold, bright, and spicy flavors. With a welcomingly warm personality, Chef Awo makes her home country’s cuisine accessible to those who haven’t yet experienced it.
Shai Fargian, Yafo Kitchen
Qian Zhang, The Dumpling Lady
Local Food Advocate of the Year: Kenya Joseph, Charlotte Food Policy Council
Quality food shouldn’t be solely for those who can afford it. Through her advocacy and work with the Charlotte Food Policy Council, Joseph — who also co-founded Hearts and Hands Food Pantry — has worked relentlessly to ensure everyone in the area has access to sustainable and healthy food — including finding the money to continue the double (sometimes triple) SNAP benefits for EBT recipients at local farmers markets when the initial sponsor pulled out.
Kristen Miranda, WBTV
Kris Reid, Piedmont Culinary Guild
Sommelier/Wine Professional of the Year: Greg Zanitsch, The Fig Tree
This Elizabeth restaurant offers one of the city’s most diverse and refined wine lists thanks to co-owner Greg Zanitsch. His selections and expertise can be found in every listing in which the restaurant’s staff has been well-trained to assist diners with their selections. The carefully curated cellar is one of the reasons The Fig Tree has been a destination for discerning diners since 2005.
Celine DeMaesschalck, Modern Hobbyist
Michael Myers, Counter-
Mixologist of the Year: Stefan Huebner, Dot Dot Dot
One of the faces of Charlotte mixology, Stefan Huebner looks for ways to explore new levels of cocktail innovations while never leaving old school classics behind. With the Dot Dot Dot speakeasy on Park Road, he has created an homage to cocktails past and future while nurturing a talented staff to realize their full potential. After five years in business, his bar remains at the forefront of the cocktail scene here.
Brittany Kellum, Rare Roots Hospitality
Larry Suggs, Humbug
Pastry Chef of the Year: Faith Morley, Counter-
If food were a love language, Faith Morley’s root vegetable tart from Counter-‘s terroir menu would embody it. From the tart’s stunning ombré visuals to the crust that crumbled delicately in your mouth, the dish showed a dedication to craft in flavor, storytelling, and sheer work hours. It’s that dedication that makes Morley among the best in town.
Lex Druhan, 300 East
Ann Marie Stefaney, Restaurant Constance
General Manager of the Year: Tracy Webb, McNinch House
It’s been a time of transition at Charlotte fine dining staple The McNinch House following the passing of owner and founder Ellen Davis. The staff, led by front of house manager Tracy Webb, has held onto Davis’ legacy, continuing the restaurant’s operation even amid the unexpected. Even without their matriarch, thanks to Webb and her team, the restaurant’s reputation for impeccable service is as strong as ever.
Phi Hoang, Puerta
Ellis Lindsay, Chapter 6
presented by OpenTable
Chef to Watch: Courtney Evans, Leah & Louise
Leah & Louise is named for two women, making it a fitting fact that it’s a female chef in the role of chef de cuisine there. As a young chef, Courtney Evans leads a James Beard-recognized kitchen with skill, continuing the restaurant’s reputation of serving excellent Southern fare based not in tradition, but personal history and memories.
Kenny Do, Maneki
Brandon Staton, Uptown Yolk
presented by 86search
Most Impactful Industry Members: Jamie Brown & Jeff Tonidandel, Tonidandel-Brown Restaurant Group
When landmark restaurant Bonterra announced its closure in Dilworth, the couple behind restaurants such as Supperland and Haberdish did what they’ve become known for: stepping in to save the space. Rehabbing old buildings is a significant investment in time and money but more importantly, in Charlotte. Their efforts help counter our city’s tendency to jump into the new, instead reminding us of where we came from and how those roots can guide our future.
Jen Hidinger-Kendrick, Giving Kitchen
Salem Suber, The Market at 7th Street
Chef of the Year: Sam Hart, Counter-
Another year, another step closer to Charlotte earning its first James Beard Award, with Sam Hart of Counter- becoming the second local chef to make it to the Finalist round. Yet instead of viewing the honor as an indication of their success as a chef, Hart has used the opportunity as an expanded platform to advocate for change. That change touches a wide spectrum of the restaurant industry, from a living wage for all to preventing soil depletion and never putting customers above the wellbeing of staff.
Robin Anthony, Omakase Experience by PrimeFish and PrimeFish
Sam Diminich, Restaurant Constance
presented by Motown Spice Provisions
THANK YOU, SPONSORS!
Restaurant Group Sponsors
If you’d like to be a sponsor of Unpretentious Palate events, you can learn more by reaching out to Casey Wilson at Carben Events.