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Christensen and Howard Bring All-Star Talent to Thrive NC

Ashley Christensen and Vivian Howard have announced their star-studded chef demo lineup for May 9 and 10 at Thrive NC presented by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (Blue Cross NC) at City Market in Downtown Raleigh. Thrive NC is a two day event to raise awareness of food insecurity in North Carolina and to elevate organizations addressing this statewide crisis.

The local chefs, in conjunction with Blue Cross NC, will also identify 6 non-profits working to improve food insecurity in North Carolina as the beneficiaries of the event’s ticket proceeds.

“Thrive NC brings talented chefs to the demo stage, but at its core, this initiative is focused on helping to improve the health and well-being of our state,” said Reagan Greene Pruitt, vice president, marketing & community engagement of Blue Cross NC. “We are proud to partner with these North Carolina non-profits and be able to invest in our shared mission to improve food insecurity in the state.”



6:30 PM            Dean Neff (PinPoint Restaurant, Wilmington, NC)
Dean is the former co-owner and chef at PinPoint Restaurant in downtown Wilmington, North Carolina and is known for his farm-to-table approach. Earlier this year, he was announced as a JBF Semifinalist for “Best Chef: Southeast.”

7:30 PM – Brian Noyes (Red Truck Rural Bakery, Marshall, VA)
Brian is the owner of Red Truck Rural Bakery in Marshall, Virginia. He has been featured in The New York Times, Saveur magazine, Travel + Leisure, Conde Nast Traveler, The Daily Meal and the Washington Post.

8:15 PM – Cynthia Wong (Life Raft Treats, Charleston, SC)
Cynthia is the founder of Life Raft Treats, an artisan company dedicated to sparking joy through crafted ice cream treats and sweets. Cynthia is a 2011, 2012, 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019 James Beard Foundation semifinalist for Outstanding Pastry Chef.


6:30 PM – Meherwan Irani (Chai Pani, Asheville, NC) and Cheetie Kumar (Garland, Raleigh, NC)
Meherwan has four James Beard Award nominations for Best Chef in the Southeast under his belt and has had much success in Asheville, North Carolina as the head chef of Chai Pani. His restaurants have been written up in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, GQ, Food & Wine, Men’s Health, USA Today, and Bon Appetit.

Cheetie’s cooking is created in a refined and thoughtful way, filled with imagination and rebellion. She is an active supporter of various charities such as No Kid Hungry, ACLU, Share our Strength, Frankie Lemmon Foundation, and InterAct. Cheetie was named a semifinalist for James Beard Award’s “Best Chef: Southeast” in 2017, 2018, and 2019.

7:30 PM – Lin Peterson (Locals Seafood, Raleigh, NC) and Keith Rhodes (Catch, Wilmington, NC)
As the co-owner of Locals Seafood, Lin and his colleague have built a great sustainable business in North Carolina. Local Seafood supplies top restaurants like Poole’s Diner, Bida Manda, and Mandolin. They continue to believe everyone in the state should have access to our coastal bounty.

Keith, a James Beard nominee for Best Chef Southeast, is chef and owner of Catch, a modern seafood restaurant in Wilmington, North Carolina. The popular restaurant recently opened a second location. Prior to his role at Catch, he served as Executive Chef of Deluxe.

8:15 PM – Vansana Nolintha (Bida Manda and Brewery Bhavana, Raleigh, NC) and Michael Lee (M Sushi, M Kokko, and M Tempura, Durham, NC)
Van calls Raleigh, North Carolina his “sacred” and “fluid” home. He is the owner of Bida Manda and Brewery Bhavana along with his sister Vanvisa. Together they have created restaurants that have been recognized not only nationally, but globally. Last year, Brewery Bhavana was nominated by James Beard Foundation as a Semifinalist for Best New Restaurant.

Michael is the owner of Durham’s favorites M Sushi, M Kokko and M Tempora. He is a renowned chef and restaurateur. Lee has a vision of opening seven interesting restaurant concepts in downtown Durham.

For more information, including future restaurant and entertainment announcements, visit Tickets to Thrive NC presented by Blue Cross NC are now on sale. All ticket proceeds go to area non-profits working to improve food insecurity in North Carolina.

About Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina:
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (Blue Cross NC) improves the health and well-being of our customers and communities by providing innovative health care products, services and information to more than 3.8 million members, including approximately 1.1 million served on behalf of other Blue Plans. Since 1933, we have worked to make North Carolina a better place to live through our support of community organizations, programs and events that promote good health.  Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. Visit Blue Cross NC online at All other marks are the property of their respective owners.