Got to Be NC Dining Competition: Pine Valley Market vs Miso Hungry

Have you gotten your tickets to attend the Got to be NC competition dining series? If not, you may want to make your purchase soon because spaces are sure to fill up fast. And why wouldn’t they? This dining competition features some of the best chefs in Wilmington battling it out for the title of city champion all while showcasing the best of NC agriculture.

The competition is the brainchild of Jimmy Crippen, founder of Crippen’s in Blowing Rock, NC and the Blowing Rock Winterfest. Crippen also played a large part in launching the Blue Ridge Wine & Food Festival, which is where his dining competition began, dubbed as “Fire on the Rock.” With the addition of partners and sponsors like Pate Dawson-Southern Foods and the North Carolina Department of Agriculture, the competition went statewide, officially becoming the Got to be NC products Competition Dining Series.

Although the series was absent from Wilmington for the past few years, it’s back and better than ever. The first battle takes place between Team Pine Valley Market and Team Miso Hungry on September 19 at Bluewater. We caught up with Chris McCauley of Pine Valley Market and Jeffrey Porter of Port City Pop-Ups to learn a little bit more about the team and their strategy.

Team Pine Valley Market: 

Chris McCauley: Executive Chef & Manager of Pine Valley Market
Paul Smith: Chef, Pine Valley Market 
Samantha Smith: Pastry Chef, Sugar Island Bakery

pine valley market

How did you get involved in the dining competition?

I’ve known about the competition for a long time, and it’s pretty well known throughout the eastern parts. Pine Valley Market participated in the competition before I came here, with another chef, so when I came on about a year and a half ago, I knew I wanted to do it. I always wanted to be in it.

How did you choose your team members?

I got the green team selection where you can bring chefs in from multiple locations to make up the team. We decided to go that route because that means I have the opportunity to work with Sam Smith, who is a local pastry chef and baker. She’s incredible. Also my sous chef at Pine Valley Market, Paul Smith, he is incredibly talented. 

What kind of strategy do you have going in?

We’re just going to show up and cook our food and not leave anything on the table and we’ll see how it falls at the end of day. 

Why is it important to have an event that focuses on NC agriculture?

It’s incredibly important. My entire career has revolved around local and seasonal cuisine. Beyond the economic impact of supporting your local farmer and agriculture, it’s a healthy to eat; it’s the right way to eat, and we’ve seen an influx of restaurants and chefs that are focused on that. People are making the choice to pay more for local products.

How does Pine Valley Market work to create local and seasonal dishes?

We try to focus on seasonal and local inspired dishes because people are seeking them out now.  A lot of people look at the market and sed a lunch style establishment, but we have one of the biggest catering establishments in town. We also do a lot of high end meals where we compose multiple meals per week for people to take home. When you use local, fresh, and seasonal ingredients, it just kind of works. 



Team Miso Hungry: 

Jeffrey Porter: Executive Chef at Port City Pop-Ups
Jameson Chavez: Executive Chef at manna
Rebecca Edelmira Alvarado-Paredes: Executive Pastry Chef at manna

miso hungry
porty city pop up


How did you get involved in the dining competition?

I was the host chef for two years at Bluewater, and I knew Jimmy from Bowling Rock when I had a restaurant there. I’ve been trying to do it for the past 3 years, but it was a conflict of interest. Jimmy gave me a call this year and told me I was eligible.

How does it feel to be competing given your recent health issues?

It feels good, minus the scariness of the stroke. I was excited up until about a month ago. I’m comfortable with the volume and speed level. I was very afraid I wasn’t able to compete, but I’m back walking and driving my car. I’m battling a couple short circuits and some weakness on the left side of my body, but I’m kind of blowing some doctor’s minds right now. I’m feeling better and stronger every day. 

What kind of strengths does each team member bring to the table?

Jameson competed in the first ever competition, and Rebecca is one of the most talented pastry chefs on the East coast.  I’ve watched the competitions. I’ve seen teams put together and you swallow your pride a little and just have someone that can make pastries way better than you are. I had one of Rebecca’s desserts one time and it gave me goose bumps. That being the last thing the judges taste, you want it to be good. I also wanted that team vibe and we know how to work together. I’ve got a great team put together.

Voters use different criteria such as aroma, presentation, and flavor  to judge the dishes. Which area are you most confident in?

We’ve got them all in the bag. Using the mystery ingredient in as many tasteful ways that you can and showcasing the dish, that is the first battle. And then using all the things they have on the truck, from filet to lobster, to pair well with the mystery ingredient. And then presentation is something people need to excel at and between the three of us, we’ve got some of the best presentation in town. You want to blow away the guests so as long as we stay focused and put it all one the plate, be very traditional and modern at the same time, and just showcasing our artwork on the plate, as well as pop some taste buds, I think we’ve got in the bag.

How does this competition help promote NC agriculture and the “eating local” movement?

Wilmington has grown leaps and bounds in the “go local or go home” movement. I try to get as much local stuff as I can and it’s very important that people keep pushing for that. Overall, it’s a much better product. Wilmington is really stepping up their game…We have an awesome fish  market and some of the best oysters on the east coast. There’s really almost nothing you can’t get in North Carolina.


To make your reservations for first battle of the Got to Be NC Dining Competition series, head to their website. The second battle will take place on September 20 between Team Ceviche’s and Team 65 Roses. Be on the lookout for our second round of team profiles next week!