Get ready for an exhilarating mixology showdown at the seventh annual NCRLA Chef Showdown as Blue Shark Vodka proudly presents four exceptional mixologists who will go head-to-head in the competition. Presented by GotToBeNC and the NC Department of Agriculture, this prestigious culinary and mixology event brings together the finest talents in North Carolina. Blue Shark Vodka has carefully selected these outstanding mixologists who will showcase their skills, unleash their creativity, and compete for mixology greatness. Prepare for a thrilling display of talent and innovation as these exceptional mixologists strive for the ultimate recognition at the NCRLA Chef Showdown!
Meet the Mixologist:
Meet Ricky Watson, Mixologist at Catch
Ricky was likely destined to be the head of the bar at Catch Seafood — a restaurant celebrated for its use of North Carolina ingredients and seafood. He jumped into the restaurant industry at 15 years old as a busboy in Virginia before eventually working his way up to the chef and then later a bartender.
Ricky cut his teeth in mixology at Tiki Island and Coconuts — both popular Virginia Beach bars. The seafood, the surf, and the island life shaped how Ricky uses locally-sourced ingredients to make cocktails perfect for the coast. At Catch he works closely with Chef Keith Rhodes to pair locally-sourced cocktails with amazing dishes, mostly seafood-focused.
“The most important part about mixology to me is bringing enjoyment to all our customers,” he said.
When not mixing and shaking up ice, Ricky enjoys surfing and good book on the sand.
Meet Jason Nunes, Mixologist at Roko Italian
Like many bartenders, Jason was thrown into the fire one night at Roko when the two bartenders left for a week on a cruise.
“I had two days to learn everything about bartending and it was sink or swim,” he said. That was his entry point into the bartending world and now five years later he not only is at the helm of the bar but serves as Roko’s general manager.
Originally from Connecticut, he moved to Florida 10 years ago and worked in several restaurants before moving to The Port City and working as a server at Roko. These days he can be found shaking up martinis for their popular Martini Monday and getting creative with new cocktails — one of his favorite aspects of the job. But Jason is really a hospitality man at heart.
“Most importantly I try to make each customer’s experience the best to bring them back time and time again — hospitality is as important as making a great drink,” he said.
When not behind the bar, Jason enjoys boating, golfing, and traveling with friends and family.
Tony Brumm mixologist for Lumina Resort
“I first started bartending in 2020 which was a weird time for everyone,” said Tony. “Over time I grew more infatuated with mixology and creating my own drinks.” Seeing the endless possibilities of drinks really piqued his interest, he said, and he is the type that hyper-focuses on learning new techniques, flavors, and combinations; trying to soak up as much knowledge as possible. Tony has worked at Lumina for more than seven years now, starting out at the pool and eventually working his way upstairs. He washed dishes, bussed tables, started serving, and eventually bartending.
“I’m proud to say I’m now the head bartender here along with being a supervisor in the restaurant.” He loves working with his hands and being creative, the fast pace of the work, and even says he gets a “runner’s high” after a busy shift. At the hotel, he has had the opportunity to meet people from all over the world with different backgrounds and cultures.
“What really drives my passion is just wanting to be the best person I can be, and that goes along with my work,” he said. Tony is one of the few locals in Wilmington who was born and raised in Wilmington — something rare these days and more newcomers arrive. Working at Lumina is really a full-circle moment for him as he grew up coming to Wrightsville Beach with his family. “As a child, my family would come to Wrightsville Beach in our free time — ironically we used to park in the public access right next to the hotel where I currently work. I can remember looking up and seeing all the lights and hearing all the people, thinking it would be such a cool place to work at one day.”
When not behind the bar, Tony stays active, goes to the gym and loves spending time at the beach and in the outdoors and traveling.
Killian Marcelling, Mixologist for Kipos Hellenic Cuisine
Killian’s interest and love of mixology began a few years ago and only continues to grow. This passion is tied to his love of food. Prior to Kipos, he worked at Pho Basil (a family-owned Vietnamese restaurant) and at Blockade Runner Resort in Wrightsville Beach.
“I love seeing people’s reactions to tasting something I’ve made,” he said. “This applies to cooking as well. In the same breath, I also love to see people enjoying themselves and catering to those experiences with both food and cocktail.”
Killian is originally from the Annecy, le Vieux, a city in the southeast of France, and his family moved to Boone, North Carolina when he was eight. When he is not behind the bar, Killian can be found outside in nature or going on a bike ride.
We invite you to join us in supporting our exceptional mixologists as they showcase their craft, pushing the boundaries of flavor and creativity in celebration of North Carolina’s mixology scene. Cheers to the Blue Shark Vodka mixologists for 2023!
For more information about the NCRLA Chef Showdown, head to their website: https://www.ncrla.org/ncrla-events/chefshowdown/