2017 Appearances

Matt Muenster

Matt Muenster

Licensed Contractor and Designer – DIY Network’s Bath Crashers

Licensed contractor Matt Muenster sees every house project, whether he’s ripping apart dated bathrooms using the latest construction technology or completely gutting his own kitchen, as a chance to use his clever ideas to achieve great design while integrating earth-friendly elements. Matt earned his degree in interior design from the University of Wisconsin at Madison. He initially got his feet wet designing restaurants and casinos and even worked on the Angolan Project in Africa. Eventually, his fervor for design shifted to the residential sector. His professional experience includes high-end interior design, and he gets an adrenaline rush every time he transforms a boring bathroom into a fantastic one on DIY Network’s Bath Crashers.
Check out when Matt and all the other Fresh Ideas Stage participants on the...Fresh Ideas Stage Schedule!

Chef Alyssa

Chef Alyssa 
Chef Alyssa's Kitchen, South End

Chef Alyssa’s Kitchen began in 2013 by owners Alyssa and Andrew Wilen. Focusing on using healthy, local and sustainable ingredients Chef Alyssa teaches hands-on cooking classes covering a variety of cuisines and ability levels. Charlotte Magazine awarded Chef Alyssa’s Kitchen best cooking class 2015 – 2017 and best culinary camp in 2017. Chef Alyssa’s Kitchen was named Top 9 in the US by tripping.com in 2016.

Growing up in Charlotte, NC Chef Alyssa has been involved with cooking nearly her entire life. A 2005 graduate of the Art Institute of Charlotte, Chef Alyssa's professional career has taken her to Italy and several restaurants in Charlotte that range from upscale restaurants, a country club to small intimate dining. In 2011, she was named the opening Executive Chef of Fern, which was named Best New Restaurant in Charlotte later that year.

In 2016, Chef Alyssa competed on Food Network's Beat Bobby Flay. In 2017 The Mecklenburg Times named her Top 50 Most Influential Women. Andrew was recognized as Top 30 under 30 by Charlotte Agenda in 2016; Top 40 under 40 by the Charlotte Business Journal in 2017.

Recently, Chef Alyssa launched a product line of sandwich spreads and dips that are sold in retail locations: Smoked Chili and Rosemary Mustard and Champagne Tomato Jam. Each spread is all-natural and made with local ingredients. Currently, Chef Alyssa can be seen cooking every Saturday morning on NBC Charlotte. For more information on Chef Alyssa please visit www.chefalyssaskitchen.com and follow @chefalyssaclt

Want to know who is on the stage...check out the Cooking Stage Schedule!

Executive Chef Ryan Allen
littleSpoon Restaurant

Ryan Allen’s culinary journey began in “Home Ec” in Valdosta GA. With the encouragement of Miss Beasley, his teacher, and his mother’s insistence, he enrolled in Johnson and Wales University’s Charlotte Campus in 2004. Upon graduation, Ryan spent five years with the Compass Group, focusing on tour catering. Ryan joined the littleSpoon family in December of 2015, upon his hire, Ryan truly felt he had found a home to showcase his talents and express his voice as a chef. He takes pride in showcasing America’s rich landscape and diversity. Chef Ryan’s distinct point of view, mirrors the Hip-Hop music littleSpoon plays daily. It is Ryan’s belief that Hip-Hop is the only music that draws unbiased influence from all musical genres. His mission it to create dishes that pay respect to the past, while creating something new and bold.

Pastry Chef Ashley Boyd
300 East and Heritage Food & Drink

Pastry Chef Ashley Boyd oversees the dessert programs at both the James Beard Award-nominated Heritage Food & Drink in Waxhaw, and Charlotte institution 300 East Restaurant. Known for combining locally grown fruits, vegetables, herbs and cheeses to create edible works of art, Chef Ashley is also a home cook with a family that loves dessert! Ashley will demo some simple techniques that, when applied to the best local ingredients, will produce stunning after-dinner treats to delight your guests.

Executive Chef Michael Chanthavong

Executive Chef Michael Chanthavong
O-Ku Restaurant

Michael Chanthavong joins The Indigo Road Restaurant Group as executive chef of O-Ku Charlotte. Sharing a passion for cooking with his parents, immigrants of Laos, Chanthavong grew up surrounded by South¬east Asian food. He diversified his expertise in the kitchen by spending time with friends of different ethnic backgrounds. Chanthavong has 12 years of experience in the hospitality industry and eight years of sushi experience. He loves that food is at the center of bringing people together and believes that “great food tends to come with great company.”Born in Rochester, New York, Chanthavong has been a resident of North Carolina since 1992 and first moved to Charlotte in 2004.

Executive Chef Chris Coleman

Executive Chef Chris Coleman
Stoke Restaurant

Chef Chris Coleman was born and raised in the northwest corner of Charlotte's Mountain Island Lake community.  When his parents promised him a car if he covered the expenses, Chris took a job busing tables at a local seafood restaurant at the age of 14.  There, he became enthralled with the bustle and creativity of the kitchen.  He enrolled at UNC Charlotte to study art and ceramics, but soon decided he wanted to become a chef and moved to Central Piedmont Community College’s culinary program. During his second semester at school, he landed a job cooking on the line at McNinch House.  When the head chef left, he was elevated to executive chef at 21. Of his experience at McNinch House, he says, “I grew up there and developed who I am as a chef.”

He branched out in 2012 to create The Market Kitchen pop-up dinner series using only locally sourced ingredients, while also experimenting with modern techniques.  In early 2014, he opened The Asbury, a 40-seat farm-to-fork restaurant at The Dunhill Hotel.  Chris joined Charlotte Marriott City Center in 2016 as the Director of Culinary Experience overseeing Stoke Restaurant, Stoke Bar and coffeehouse Coco and the Director. 

Greg Collier

Greg Collier

Chef Gregory Collier was born in Memphis, TN in the summer of 1981. After attending college for a few years, Greg decided to work at a popular hot wing restaurant in Memphis. It was during his employment there, that he realized he had a natural gift with specialty foods and their preparation, and advanced himself from line cook to the kitchen manager. It was here also that he met his future wife, Subrina.After careful consideration he decided to seriously pursue his culinary love and moved to Phoenix, AZ where he enrolled in the Scottsdale Community College Culinary Program.

After graduation, he became employed at the Phoenician Resort as a Breakfast Chef where he improved his technique in the preparation of breakfast foods. He continued his employment as a chef at the Arizona Biltmore and the Westin Kierland in Scottsdale, Arizona. In 2012, he and his wife, Subrina, decided they wanted to move back to the South and they both felt that the Charlotte, NC and Rock Hill, SC areas would be a perfect location for a place such as theirs. After much searching, they found a location on Mt. Gallant in Rock Hill which would suit their needs as it had previously been a diner for over twenty years. Their wish was to make their new diner a special place focused on local food resources but with a touch of contemporary flare. They both feel that they have achieved this goal.

Jossie Perlmutter

Pastry Chef Jossie Perlmutter
Sweet Affairs

Jossie Perlmutter is the Owner and Head Pastry Chef at artisanal dessert catering service, Sweet Affairs. Joselyn founded Sweet Affairs in 2015, bringing the Charlotte community a truly unique dessert experience.

Born and raised in the D.C. metro area, Jossie graduated from the University of Miami in Florida with a degree in Entrepreneurship. After years of testing out gourmet cupcake recipes on her friends and family, Joselyn followed her passion to France where she received formal pastry training at the Ecole Nationale Superieure de Patisserie in Yssingeaux. Owned by the renowned Chef Alain Ducasse, Jossie had the opportunity to study alongside the school’s talented pastry chefs – learning how to create everything from from buttery croissants to rich, chocolatey entremets.

Upon her return from France, Jossie worked under Chef Marion Pitcher at Clyde’s of Chevy Chase. She moved to Charlotte, NC in December 2013 to launch the pastry program at Heirloom Restaurant. In October 2014, Jossie joined The Asbury, followed by a move to Block & Grinder in July of 2016. In 2017, Jossie was named Pastry Chef of the Year by the North Carolina Restaurant and Lodging Association.

Melanie Cannizzaro

Owner and Founder Melanie Cannizzaro Tritten - Cannizzaro Sauces

Melanie Cannizzaro-Tritten and her husband Andy decided it was time to share her marinara sauce with the world, not just friends and family who have been enjoying it for years. Born in Rochester,  NY, Melanie’s Italian heritage and culinary expertise brought her to making her famed marinara and a family of enjoyable and healthy recipes and sauces as well. Welcome to Cannizzaro Famiglia.  Cannizzaro Famiglia takes the old world Italian traditions to your kitchen through authentic sauce creations.

Using only the freshest ingredients and combining them with a lot of hard work and love, Cannizzaro Famiglia sauces come alive at your dinner table.  Hand Crafted in Charlotte, North Carolina, Cannizzaro Famiglia is producing a Marinara , Mushroom Marinara, Vodka and an Arrabbiata sauce.

Courtney Buckley

Owner and Founder Courtney Buckley
Your Mom’s Donuts

Courtney Buckley has been involved in farming and local food for her entire life. The path she and her then partner Ben Fry took through selling local food, led them to crafting pastries with the leftover ingredients. With a brand new family, she shifted gears and wanted to build a business that would be family centered, people focused and support her first love- the local farming community. Your Mom’s Donuts was born out of this passion. At the time, Charlotte and the surrounding area was lacking a craft donut shop. So they build theirs in Matthews, a short drive from the Matthew’s Farmer’s Market. Their menu of flavors is unique and innovative with an assortment of flavors that change each and every week.  Since opening in 2013, the shop has not only added a food cart which you can find in Uptown Charlotte, Davidson Farmer’s Market and many pop-up shops, but their family has added twins, a farm of their own, and laid the foundation for the boom of donut businesses in Charlotte. We are biased, but ours will rock your world!

Laura Esparza

Laura Esparza General Manager
Comida Modern Mexican

Laura’s adventures in the Queen City may have begun at the tender age of 18, when she moved from Columbus, Ohio to attend Johnson & Wales, but her culinary journey began in high school as a cashier for a taco truck. Laura graduated in 2014 with an Associate’s Degree in Culinary and a Bachelor’s Degree in Food and Beverage Management with a concentration in International Hospitality.

Following school, she traveled to Naples, Florida for an internship with the Ritz Carlton, where she fell in love with the art of hospitality.  Upon completion of her internship, she was asked to stay on for an additional three months before returning to Charlotte. Her journey continued to Augusta National, where she assisted the catering team for The Masters Golf Tournament, and was then hired at Charlotte Country Club.

Laura joined the Comida family in Plaza Midwood as General Manager in May of 2016.  Stepping out of the kitchen to focus on the inner workings of Comida’s Front of House.  As a women of Mexican heritage, Laura has truly found a home in Comida.  Her passion for hospitality and her love, and fluency of Mexican culture are a perfect marriage for the new restaurant.  Each day is new adventure in elevating an ancient cuisine, and sharing her wealth of knowledge with her staff and guests.

Chef Shai Fargian

Executive Chef Shai Fargian
Yafo Kitchen

Chef Shai Fargian opened Yafo Kitchen Spring of 2016 with Charlotte restaurateur Frank Scibelli. Having been raised in Israel, middle eastern flavors are threaded through Chef Shai’s authentic cuisine paired with the simplicity of healthy eating. Chef Shai has worked in kitchens all over the world including Tel Aviv and New York City bringing varied experience to the Charlotte food culture.

Jon Fortes

Owner and Executive Chef Jon Fortes
Flipside Restaurant

Chef Jon and Chef Amy Fortes met in 2008 in the industry and shared a passion for food and people. Having worked in the kitchen for a combined 30+ years we thought it was time to start an adventure of our own. We love the Charlotte area, but we liked the family and community feel of Fort Mill and Rock Hill. We are so excited to have found two great locations to bring locally inspired fare to great local people! We use only the best ingredients that will keep customers coming back again and again.

We hope you’ll come and join us, whether it be for a quick cup of joe in the morning, a light breakfast mid-day, a great treat at lunch, a family outing for brunch or a great night out with your loved ones.

Owner and Executive Chef Tim Groody
Fork! And Ramen Soul

Comfort, The Beatles and Quality Ingredients Collide at Ramen Soul - Erin Maddrey, Lake Norman Magazine. Ramen Soul is the inspiration of chef-team Timothy and Melanie Groody of the wildly popular Fork! restaurant in Cornelius. They long dreamed of opening an Asian themed restaurant BUT with an Americanized, chef-driven twist, and put that dream into motion in 2016 -- welcome Ramen Soul!

Our Ramen features traditional noodles and broth (simmered for over 12 hours!) with seasonal toppings and variations. We're committed to serving only the highest quality ingredients and source our creative combinations from local areas. We even grow our own herbs in house.

From Ramen, to Dim-Sum, to then some --check out our sake inspired cocktails -- we're sure you'll enjoy a relaxed and flavorful meal at Ramen Soul!

Jon Luther

Executive Chef and Proprietor Jon Luther
JJ’s Red Hots

Jonathan is the creator and co-founder of a successful fast casual restaurant brand called JJ’s Red Hots in Charlotte North Carolina. JJ’s has, in it’s five years of existence, grown to a $2.5M business serving premium hot dogs and house made sausages in various different iterations including two brick and mortar retail locations (with a third under construction), a robust and growing mobile cart and trailer operation and licensed operations in on-site dining. In a practical manner, Jonathan also serves as Executive Chef. For more information, please visit: www.jjsredhots.com

Jonathan has over 25 years of experience in building restaurant brands and creating multi-media in-store customer experiences for Fortune 500 retail brands. Prior to working at Mood, Jonathan designed, built and managed other start up restaurant concepts, including a quick service Mexican grill concept in Philadelphia called Cool Peppers, and a fast casual American grill concept called Mike’s Warehouse Grill, part of Mike’s Famous Harley-Davidson, the number one retailer of Harley-Davidson motorcycles in the world.

He currently operates JJ’s, is an owner and operator of a two store franchise of Hurricane Grill and Wings in Jupiter, FL, and is a partner with Dan Bowers and Jon Luther Sr. in Juno Beach Donuts and Charlotte Deelites – both successful franchise operations of Dunkin’ Donuts.

Jonathan lives in Charlotte, NC with his wife Melissa (also a partner in JJ’s as it’s CFO) and his two children Jack and Jesse. He is an avid golfer, tennis player and an unapologetic Buffalo Bills fan.

Chef Marlow

Executive Chef Thomas Marlow-
Mimosa Grill

Thomas Marlow is the Executive Chef of the award winning Mimosa Grill in Uptown Charlotte, NC. Marlow was born and raised in Fairport, NY before coming to Charlotte to attend Johnson & Wales University to obtain an Associate’s Degree in Culinary Arts and B.S. in Food Service Management. Chef Marlow joined Harper’s Restaurant Group in 2009 under the tutelage of Executive Chef Jon Fortes, he honed his skills and moved through various Harper’s Group locations as the chef de cuisine of Upstream and Zink American Kitchen before coming full circle back to Mimosa Grill as Executive Chef. Alongside the team from Mimosa, Marlow won both the 2013 and 2014 “Fire in the City” Competition Dining Series and the NC State Competition dining Series in 2014. Most recently since taking the reins of Mimosa Grill, Marlow has led the restaurant to Visit Charlotte’s 2015 Restaurant of the year and Food Service Magazine’s Top 100 Independent Restaurants in America in 2015 Chef Marlow is a proud member of the Piedmont Culinary Guild based in Charlotte, NC and has been a member of the Southern Foodways Alliance since 2012. Marlow is also the host chef of the annual No Kid Hungry Dinner held at Mimosa Grill to raise awareness to end childhood hunger in America and you can join his fight at nokidhungry.org 

Pastry Chef Samantha Ward
Wentworth and Fenn

As a native to the south, Sam Allen started her roots in San Antonio, Texas but found her way to Charlotte, North Carolina. Working in local bakeries and attending Johnson & Wales-Charlotte, she worked her way up over the years to being the executive pastry chef at The Fig Tree Restaurant. As of lately, she has started her own business in Concord, NC! Wentworth & Fenn (location coming soon!) Is geared toward classic/timeless flavors. Sam hopes to bring the flavors of home back to people celebrations, family gatherings, and kitchen tables.