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Meet Local NC Chefs at TASTE 2016 Durham Food Festival

Organized by our friends at Durham Magazine and Chapel Hill MagazineTaste the Event is a charitable local food festival highlighting top culinary talent, including chefs, restaurateurs, beverage purveyors and other locals from the Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill area. Each year, several Southern Bride and Groom caterers take part in The Grand Taste Experience – a delicious food festival taking place on April 21st, 2016 at The Durham Armory.

We’d like to take a moment to introduce you to some of that talent today on our blog. If you’re going to TASTE, be sure to stop by and say hello to the chefs mentioned below – your tastebuds are in for a treat!

Meet Executive Chef Josh Munchel of Counting House at 21c Museum Hotel in downtown DurhamChef Josh Munchel Counting House DurhamChef Munchel comes to Counting House from another 21c Museum Hotels restaurant, Metropole in Cincinnati, Ohio. Born and raised in Cincinnati, Munchel attended culinary school in nearby Louisville before returning to his hometown to practice his thoughtful approach to ingredients and love of fragrant spices and bold flavors in kitchens throughout Cincinnati. He moved to Durham to head the kitchen at Counting House when it opened in 2015.

At 21c Durham, they love to showcase the bounty of the Carolina coast. They have a unique menu option called “Sea Snacks” that includes pickled shrimp, oysters in the half shell, and rotating seafood items. When they can get Spanish Mackerel, they love to feature it. Lucky for us, they’ll have it at TASTE!

“Preparing the Mackerel is a five day process that I absolutely love,” explains Munchel. “The first step is to brine the fish filets for six hours then remove the filets from the brine. The filets are then soaked in sherry vinegar and lemon juice for at least 48 hours. The acid in the vinegar and lemon juice helps to cook and acidify the fish. We then make an aromatic oil, cover the fish with the oil and let set in the refrigerator for up to a month (will be ready to consume in 48 hours). You end up with a really nice, light snack that is delicious on crackers or grilled bread!”

We can’t wait to try it!

Meet Chef Toshio Sakamaki

 of Basan sushi in American Tobacco CampusBasan sushi restaurant Durham NCChef Toshio Sakamaki was born in Tokyo, Japan. His father was a sushi chef, and ever since he was a child, Toshio dreamed of being a chef and moving to the United States. He has worked in New York, San Francisco, and is now leading the Basan kitchen in Durham.

In Japan, red snapper is a popular item for weddings and celebration parties, so grilled red snapper or sashimi is a favorite for Chef Toshio to prepare at these occations.

Every year, Chef Toshio enjoys meeting many different people at TASTE and introducing them to Basan’s unique cuisine. Since Basan’s speciality is fresh seafood, so you may find a sashimi dish this year at the Grand Taste Experience.

We can’t wait to see what they have in store!

Meet Executive Chef Jason Cunningham at The Washington Duke Inn & Golf Club
Chef Jason Cunningham Washington DukeChef Jason Cunningham has led the Fairview Dining Room and Washington Duke Inn & Golf Club culinary teams since 2001. A graduate of Johnson & Wales University, Jason’s culinary journey has taken him from New England to the Hawaiian island of Lanai, perfecting his craft along the way. Jason believes fresh is best and seeks the finest, locally grown ingredients to create innovative seasonally-inspired dishes with a southern twist.

“TASTE is the event that brings our food community together – those who are passionate about creating dishes and those that love to enjoy them. We look forward to connecting with our peers to share, sample and promote the food revolution that’s happening in our region,” Cunningham shares.

When it comes to weddings at The Washington Duke, each menu is unique. They customize many aspects of the culinary experience for the bride, groom and their guests – from the hors d’oeuvres and specialty entrées to the handcrafted pastries and champagne sent to the newlyweds’ room following the reception.

Meet Chef James Clark head of Crossroads Chapel Hill at The Carolina Inn
Carolina Inn Catering
Chef James Clark is a master of authentic North Carolina cuisine, specializing in traditional southern dishes with a modern flare. A native of the Carolinas, Clark is a graduate of the New England Culinary Institute in Vermont and previously worked at Five-Star, Five-Diamond, Four-Star and Four-Diamond restaurants in culinary hotbeds Washington D.C., New Orleans, Charleston and Atlanta, among others.

Passed hors d’oeuvres at The Carolina Inn weddings do not disappoint! Guests enjoy upscale apps like cured tuna with picked green tomato or maple brined pork tenderloin with artichoke relish, but Chef’s favorite display feature is their whole roasted grouper with Texas Pete burre blanc and Carolina gold rice.

At TASTE, we’ll get a taste of braised pork cheeks, spring pea grits, pickled ramp gremolata – yum!

Meet Chef Teddy Diggs Executive Chef at Il Palio inside The Siena Hotel in Chapel Hill
Upscale Italian at Il Palio in Chapel Hill

Grand tastings are always a hub of energy when friends and foodies unite to celebrate their common passion and Chef Diggs views TASTE as an exciting challenge to find a way to share the hallmarks of Il Palio – bold ingredients, smoky aromas and balanced flavors – in a festival setting to create the same emotional connection that diners can expect from the restaurant itself.

When Diggs plans weddings, he always customizes the menu to the bride and groom with the understanding that each wedding is unique and special to the couple. “For example, if a couple loves fresh produce, I craft dishes to showcase ripe summer tomatoes or sweet corn. One couple requested a nontraditional wedding cake, inspiring my riff on a rich carrot cake bedecked in a bourbon cream cheese frosting,” Diggs shares.

The dishes he serves at TASTE will provide a glimpse into the warm atmosphere and vibrant flavors that they offer at Il Palio. And, of course, they will also have their hallmark crowd favorite: rosemary and sea salt foccacia bread!

Seriously, we could not get enough of that bread last year!

Meet Chef Laureano Cortez Hernandez of Durham Catering Company
Chef Jason Cunningham Washington Duke
Chef Hernandez has over 15 years of experience in high-end restaurants of downtown Durham, including Pop’s Trattoria, Nana’s, Magnolia Grill, and Another Thyme. Working with chefs like Scott Howell and Tom Ferguson, Chef Hernandez has developed a palate for creative, and classic combinations. When he’s not in the kitchen, he likes to spend time with his son, little Laureano, and his wife, Claudia Juarez, enjoying the outdoors.

“It’s always good to see old friends and new, and to support a great cause, but my favorite thing about TASTE is seeing people tasting and enjoying our food again and again,” Hernandez says.

His favorite thing to serve at weddings is a sesame tuna wonton, which is seared tuna on a crispy wonton with avocado and a dollop of wasabi. For TASTE, foodies will be treated to Durham Catering Co’s bold flavors of corn elotes, with a Mexican cream, cotija cheese, and spices.

* We’ll be sharing some bites from the night on our Instagram page, so be sure to follow along!

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