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Macaroni-and-Cheese Fest Puts Chefs to the Test

We’re not big on promoting cheesy events here at Queen City Nerve, but every once in a while, we make an exception. On Saturday, Nov. 9, hundreds of macaroni lovers will spend their day munching on tasty mac at the fourth annual CLT’s s’MACdown, and we’ve got the first look at what the 12 participating chefs will be mixing up to try to out-mac the others.

If you’re a true Southerner, you know mac ‘n’ cheese is more than just a tasty side; it’s the Holy Grail of down-home cooking. Anyone can make it, only few can make it the right way. In other words, it ain’t to be messed with.

The mere mention of adding something “different” to the mac is often met with a strict and resounding “No!” but the s’MACdown is inviting the potential for mac ‘n’ cheese experimentation.

Mac from Harry’s Grill and Tavern.

With the onset of hipster-inspired cuisine and culturally infused menus, several Southerners are opening their minds and mouths to dishes they ordinarily wouldn’t (bacon jam anyone?).

However, the chefs battling for the s’MACdown crown are taking the ultimate risk and putting a creative spin on this classic recipe. Instead of letting their family recipe confine them to a Kraft Cheese box, they’re breaking taboos and taking names with their unconventional, wonky and signature mac ‘n’ cheese dishes. These brave chefs are letting their fellow peers and tasters know that anything is truly possible.

We spoke with four of the 12 participants to get the inside scoop on their winning dish, and get the digs on how they plan to take the crown as CLT’s Mac Champion.

Steven Mahony, head chef at Harry’s Grille and Tavern, is one of the bold chefs presenting his take on this classic side. His Lobster Mac ‘n’ Cheese is the perfect mix of class and sass. Accompanying the petite penne is a mixture of handpicked claw and knuckle meat. Cheese lovers can enjoy the varying flavor profiles of Asiago, Manchego, Romano and Parmesan cheese. The dominating tastes ooze with flavor and comfort — two necessary ingredients for the perfect mac recipe.

Aunt Lynn’s MacAttack.

Aunt Lynn’s is a catering business serving down-home, Southern soul food. Dubbed the “Home of the MacAttack”, these culinary experts are merging unique ingredients into a gooey dish of cheesy heaven. The MacAttack is a family recipe consisting of not one, not two, but six different cheeses. Imagine the different textures and flavors you’ll receive with that aspect alone.

Fresh spinach is incorporated throughout the dish, along with seasoned chicken, butter and bacon! Ok, the competition just got intense. Aside from bacon, this dish is perfect if you’re looking for a clever way to incorporate veggies into your kid’s diet.

“Our chicken-and-spinach mac is our bestseller for both young and old,” confirms head chef and owner Lynn Burris. Lynn and her daughter Ebony own and operate the full-service catering business. They’re eager to show off their signature dish and win your stamp of approval.

Ashley’s Yummy Tummy mac.

Next on the chopping block is Ashley’s Yummy Tummy — another awesome mobile catering service serving up delicious dishes in the Carolinas. Head chef Ashley Monique plans to take us on a trip around the world with her culturally-infused dish, appropriately deemed Elote Mac & Cheese.

With notes of Latin influence and true Southern charm, this dish is guaranteed to take your taste buds for a spin.

“I plan to win the competition by investing time into making sure the flavors are experienced with every bite,” says Monique.

This is evident in her bold combination of flavors you never thought would go in a mac ‘n’ cheese dish.

“The flavor profile includes smooth and creamy cheese sauce with roasted corn on the cob. Mac ‘n’ cheese and Mexican street corn is delicious by themselves, but together, it’s amazing.”

Moving on: Mac ‘n’ cheese and chill, anyone? If you’re a fan of the Boondocks, you know exactly what “the itis” is. If you haven’t experienced the REM-quality sleep that comes after experiencing a meal consisting of carbohydrates, butter, bacon and chicken, you will after one bite of Satan’s Breath 5 Alarm 6 Cheese Chili Mac.

What’s the secret ingredient that makes this dish so chill? Cannabidiol. You read correctly. CBD-infused macaroni and cheese will be in the building November 9th.

Who’s the mastermind behind the mac? None other than the culinary experts at Fitzgerald’s in Uptown. They’re taking their dish to new heights, literally, with a “perfect blend of smoky and spicy” mac n’ cheese, explains representative Hanna Owens.

She continues: “You can expect a dish infused with Satan’s Breath CBD hot sauce, six different cheeses, black beans and ground beef.”

If you don’t know about Satan’s Breath CBD Hot Sauce, get hip to the game. This product is locally sourced and infused with 50 milligrams of full-spectrum CBD. It’s adequately described as “an elegant blend of six fire roasted peppers.” Anything doused with this stuff is sure to have you breathing fire and chilling out at the same time.

Visually, this dish is stunning. We’re accustomed to seeing macaroni and cheese in yellow and beige tones. This dish, however, is rife with colors, textures and of course, flavors. You’re sure to get a photo worthy for the ‘Gram when you try out this fiery dish.

So, still think mac ‘n’ cheese is boring? Test your theory at the upcoming s’MACdown. The listed chefs and a host of others are ready to share their gifts with the wonderful people of Charlotte.

If for whatever reason mac n’ cheese isn’t your fancy which in that case, what’s up with you? — there will be several craft beer and other local vendors present. Tickets start at $30 and proceeds benefit Project Halo — a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping animals find their forever home. So, grab your friends and make your way down to the 4th annual s’MACdown!

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