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TASTE the event – a Q&A with Il Palio Chef Teddy Diggs

The premiere TASTE the event is fast approaching! This festival, produced by our friends at Durham & Chapel Hill Magazines, is THE Triangle Area must-attend food, wine and beer event of the year! Many Triangle restaurants receive national accolades and praise, which draws foodies to our area from across the country. TASTE the event is your chance to try some of the best and discover your favorites!

We were privileged to recently spend some time with Teddy Diggs, new executive chef at Il Palio Ristorante, the celebrated Italian restaurant at The Siena Hotel, to learn a bit about the background of this NC-newcomer, and his plans for TASTE the event.

At an early age, Diggs developed a love of food and the industry surrounding it. He participated in a high school culinary program, and then went on to attend the Culinary Institute of America. Chef Diggs recalls working at Maestro, a restaurant at the DC-area Ritz Carlton, as his greatest learning experience for the European mindset and authentic Italian cooking. Here, he adopted his focus of making relationships with food providers in order to obtain the highest-quality, local ingredients. Diggs has carried these lessons throughout his career as head chef of prestigious locally-sourced restaurants in Washington DC and Martha’s Vineyard, before his recent move to Chapel Hill to become the Chef of four-diamond Il Palio Restaurant, located at The Siena Hotel.

We had the chance to sample some of Chef Diggs’ new menu items at Il Palio during the interview, and every bite we had – from their home-made focaccia bread to their classically prepared calamari dish, to a unique Tuna Bolognese dish – was clean, fresh and delicious! If you haven’t been by Il Palio since Chef Diggs’ arrival, we suggest you make plans to dine there as soon as possible (they are even bringing back Sunday brunch) – if you’re lucky, you might even be able to snag one of the last spots for the upcoming TASTE of Italy Wine Dinner (more info below).

Read on for a few highlights from our Q&A with Chef Diggs, and a peek at the TASTE Il Palio dinner menu!

First Memory of Falling in love with the Culinary World

Chef Diggs: When I was a child, I was allowed to watch an hour of TV each day, and always I spent it watching Emeril Live, and Bobby Flay’s Grillin’ & Chillin’ on The Food Network. I was hooked!

First Cook Book

Chef Diggs: In second grade, my favorite Christmas present was The Brady Bunch cookbook – I still have it!

Why Chapel Hill?

Chef Diggs: My family had a beautiful life in Martha’s Vineyard but my wife and I knew we wanted to settle in a place that had a true balance of big and small city feel. Chapel Hill was at the top of our wish list because of that reason, as well as its strong international community, and the energy that the growth of the culinary community is fueling.

Favorite Triangle Dining Experiences So Far

Chef Diggs: Sunrise Biscuit Kitchen, Nana-Taco, Allen & Son’s, and [ONE] Restaurant

Approach to Weddings

Chef Diggs: I worked with 30 – 40 weddings a year in Martha’s Vineyard, and my goal is always to exceed a bride’s expectations for her special day. I encourage the couple to sit down and have a conversation with me so I can create a truly customize menu for them. It makes everyone more relaxed if I know what the client wants, so custom is actually my preference. [The Siena Hotel is expert at hosting intimate weddings of up to 100 people, and the food comes straight from the Il Palio kitchen. Their banquet space, lobby and guest rooms were renovated a little over a year ago – SB&G]

Cooking Philosophy

Chef Diggs: Italian cooking is about showcasing ingredients and product. This is why it’s so important to create relationships with local farmers and growers – if the product is as good as it can be, it speaks for itself. Everything is on the table for a reason, and has a story – it’s about making that connection.

On Taste The Event

Chef Diggs: I’ve done many events like this before and am excited to be part of the first TASTE Event. The menu for the Grand TASTE experience is going to be surprise, but I’ve got a very exciting menu prepared for the Il Palio dinner, featuring olive oil from different Italian regions. [Full Menu below]

Il Palio TASTE of Italy Wine DinnerChef Diggs will be hosting one of the many food stations at the Grand TASTE Experience at DPAC on Thursday, April 24. For a 10% discount, use code “TASTESponsor10” in the code field). This event will feature irresistibly delicious samples of food, wine, craft beer, and even locally distilled spirits from the most prestigious food and beverage professionals in Central North Carolina. A portion of the ticket sales will be donated to the Durham Branch of the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina. There will also be a silent auction with a host of prizes, and all proceeds from this event will be donated to the Food Bank.

If you want to experience a truly special night of wining and dining, we highly recommend checking out the April 25th TASTE of Italy Wine Dinner at Il Palio of The Siena Hotel, during which you’ll meet Chef Diggs and taste an innovative five-course meal, each dish inspired by an olive oil from five different regions of Italy – Tuscany, Umbria, Sicily, Abruzzo, and Lazio.


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