Food & Drink

Chefs Vivian Howard and Ashley Christensen headline new downtown Raleigh food festival

With North Carolina's flourishing food scene, the organizers of Thrive NC had plenty of chefs to choose from for their new food festival.

And what a delicious event it will be.

Award-winning chefs Vivian Howard of Kinston and Ashley Christensen of Raleigh will headline the festival May 10 and 11. The event features more than 30 local restaurants, mostly from downtown Raleigh, and including many of the region's very best. Tickets are $30 a night for unlimited sampling.

Sponsors Blue Cross and Blue Shield of NC revealed the festival's menu Tuesday at City Market, where Thrive NC will be held.

It's practically a tasting menu for the best of North Carolina's restaurants. There will be three-hour tastings both nights of the event, plus cooking demonstrations from Howard, Christensen, Sam Jones (Winterville's Sam Jones BBQ), Teddy Diggs (Chapel Hill's Il Palio), Andrea Reusing ( Chapel Hill's Lantern and The Durham) and Cheetie Kumar (Raleigh's Garland).

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Two-day food festival Thrive NC will host its inaugural event May 10-11, raising issues of food security and nutrition and aiming to throw a heck of a party. Thrive NC

Musical acts have local flair with Joe Kwon (of The Avett Brothers) and Friends, country singer Kasey Tyndall and Jump Little Children of South Carolina.

The tasting spread includes lemongrass pork sausage and bao from Bida Manda and Brewery Bhavana; tacos from both Centro and Gonza Tacos y Tequila; oysters from 18 Seaboard; wings from Hummingbird; and gumbo from Whiskey Kitchen, among many others.

Christensen will serve food from some of her downtown Raleigh restaurants: Carolina Reaper hot chicken from Beasley's and lump crab doughnuts from Poole's Diner.

From beyond Raleigh, Jones will sling whole hog sliders, Diggs will make lamb meatballs, and Cary's La Farm Bakery will handle the breads.

Craft beer icon Dogfish Head gets top beverage billing, but local beers will also come from Aviator, Brewery Bhavana, Carolina Brewery, Durham Bull, Lonerider, Trophy and White Street. Cocktails will come from Whiskey Kitchen and Tito's vodka, plus a lineup of wines, including mandatory rose.

Beyond the eating, Thrive NC's main event is an invitation-only summit on May 11 of chefs, elected officials and business and community leaders addressing food issues in North Carolina. Panelists will talk about the role of food as an economic driver in both urban and rural areas, and another panel will discuss childhood hunger and nutrition.

Bryant Terry, a chef, author and James Beard Leadership Award winner will delivery the summit's keynote address. On the morning of Friday, May 11, volunteers from the festival will work with the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle to pack 600 backpacks of food for Wake County students and 400 grocery bags to be delivered to Wake County seniors.


ThriveNC is May 10 and 11 at City Market, 306 Parham St., Raleigh. Tickets are $30 each night. For more information and tickets, go to

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