The preliminary rounds of the Got to be NC Competition Dining Series Fire in the Triangle are underway. When ticket sales opened, the first preliminary battle to sell out was the match between Chef Regan Stachler of Little Hen in Holly Springs and Chef Beth LittleJohn of Raleigh’s Coquette Brasserie. This is Chef LittleJohn’s first year competing and as the only female chef I was interested in learning more about her culinary interests and inspirations. If you’re one of the diners with tickets to the July 8th battle, you’re in for a treat. These two creative chefs are sure to bring their “A” games to the event. If you’ve yet to purchase tickets, seats are still available for a couple of the preliminary match ups, as well as the quarter and semi-final rounds. So get on that as soon as you can!
TL – How (or why) did you get started in your culinary career?
Chef LittleJohn – From the time I was twelve years old I wanted to be a chef. I was inspired to cook by my family, my Italian baby sitter, and by going on some school trips to local restaurants in Chapel Hill. Notably, Mama Dipps Country Kitchen was one of my biggest inspirations as a young girl. It was always my dream to attend The Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in NY. While in high school I tried to get a job in a kitchen, any job, to meet the requirements to attend the school. Unfortunately my lack of experience kept me from getting any of those jobs. I decided then to get my Bachelors degree and that I could always go back to culinary school later if it was still something that I wanted to do. As I found out at age 24, it most definitely was something I still wanted. After an amazing and inspirational 2 years in NY I graduated in 2006 from CIA.
TL – Why did you decide to take on the Fire in the Triangle Competition Dining challenge this year?
Chef LittleJohn – I had applied to the competition last year and was not selected. I decided to apply again because I thought it would be a really fun and unique opportunity. As Chefs we must continuously learn and grow. This is one of those great opportunities to do that.
TL – Have you dined at any of the restaurants in this year’s competition? If so, which one(s)?
Chef LittleJohn – I have dined and worked at the Carolina Inn. I have done a number of events at the Umstead and tried some of the wonderful food at Herons. I have also dined at the Weathervane a number of times. I have heard great things about all the chefs and feel honored to compete against some of the Triangle’s best chefs!
TL – Which ingredients do you enjoy working with most?
Chef LittleJohn – Being a native North Carolinian I really enjoy summer time here in NC and the bountiful products our state produces. I love working with fresh corn, tomatoes, squashes, pork, seafood, soft shells (in season), muscadines, sweet potatoes, etc.
TL – How have you been preparing to take on the challenge of Competition Dining?
Chef LittleJohn – My team and I have been keeping up with all of the battles in the Triad and the Triangle and their secret ingredients. We have been discussing possible menu ideas and planning how we will execute three courses for 150 people in 6 hours! It is most definitely a challenge, but my team and I are excited to execute!
TL – When you’re not on the job at Coquette, what might we find you doing?
Chef LittleJohn – Believe it or not I do enjoy cooking at home for friends and family. I enjoy working out, gardening, spending time with my family either here in Chapel Hill or in the mountains of North Carolina. Whatever time I do have away from work I try and spend a lot of it with my dog Bic and cat Carolina.
Thanks to Bolt PR and Got to be NC Competition Dining Series for facilitating the interview and to Chef LittleJohn for her time.