Redefining Charlotte’s Food Scene
June 8, 2017 at 7th Street Public Market
Four of Charlotte’s food pioneers – the owners of establishments that have changed the culinary landscape of our city – shared their stories of food from home, long days and nights, maxed-out credit cards, taking risks, and turning dreams into opportunity.
While waiting tables in a busy restaurant as a student, Bonnie Warford found her calling. She has been operating Carpe Diem Restaurant & Caterers since 1989 and was the co-owner of a nightclub, Moon Room Brasserie, from 1993-1999. Bonnie and her sister, Tricia Maddrey, opened Earl’s Grocery almost 3 years ago. Known for her tenacity and passion for entrepreneurialism and civic responsibility, both businesses strive to strengthen the community by partnering with local art, education, and philanthropic organizations.
James Yoder co-founded Not Just Coffee with his wife in 2011, shortly after moving to Charlotte from Italy where they lived for two and a half years. His interests are great food and beverages, and people. He has traveled extensively working with various non-profits but now considers Charlotte his home.
In October of 2013 Courtney Buckley, Benjamin Frye and their newborn daughter left the farm they called home due to unexpected circumstances. Benjamin was a graduate of Johnson and Wales and Courtney had dedicated much of her adult life to connecting local farmers with restaurants seeking a better product. Your Mom’s Donuts is a beautiful combination of love of food, need for a new business, and desire for a better product.
Dalton Espaillat is one of North Carolina’s fastest-rising entrepreneurs. Trained as an engineer, he and two friends bought a Mexican restaurant on Central Avenue in 2008 when construction work dried up due to the recession. He retooled the restaurant as Three Amigos, the name Anglicized to welcome non-Latinos. Three Amigos became an East Charlotte destination, but Dalton dreamed of an eatery featuring the food of his home, the Dominican Republic. Sabor’s menu is a mix of Mexican favorites and popular street foods from throughout Latin America, and Dalton just opened a seventh location.
Dr. Tom Hanchett retired recently after many years with Levine Museum of the New South and earlier with Charlotte Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks. But he hasn’t given up work as a community historian. He writes a column on international restaurants for the Charlotte Observer, “Food From Home,” gives tours including the ongoing “Charlotte in Black & White and More” for Community Building Initiative, and lectures frequently on our city’s history.