Top chefs from across North Carolina bring the heat at the 7th Annual Pepper Festival on Sunday, Oct. 5, at Briar Chapel in Chapel Hill.

More than 30 chefs and craft brewers have been invited to create dishes for the festival. The chefs have a great deal of latitude as they can make anything from chocolate to beer. The only real requirement is that the creation include locally developed and grown North Carolina peppers as a key ingredient. Among those taking part are chefs from Little Hen, The Fearrington Granary, Lucky 32 Southern Kitchen, Fiction Kitchen and 518 West as well as craft artisans from YesterYears Brewery, Steel String Brewery, Carolina Brewery, Top of the Hill Distillery and Fair Game Beverage Company. Just reading that list should make you hungry and thirsty. (Or is that just me?)

They will be giving their best effort too, because they won’t be flashing culinary creativity just for show but for the sweet taste of victory as well. “Celebrity” judges will be roaming the festival and scoring the food and drink in a variety of categories. I put celebrity in quotes because I’m one of the judges, so clearly the festival is using a very loose definition of the word. Also taking part in the judging will be reporter Leoneda Inge from WUNC and Durham Foodie blogger Johanna Kramer.

More than food and drink are on the menu. Phil Cook (of such groups as Phil Cook & His Feat, Guitarheels and Megafaun) and Tender Fruit will each perform musical sets. Also, there are special activities for the kids and Learning Tents for those interested in sustainable lifestyle topics such as “Raising Chatham Rabbits for Meat,” “Lacto-Fermenting Peppers for Good Gut Health” and “Intro to Aquaponics.”

More than a thousand people attend each year so the festival has clearly established itself as an entertaining afternoon of highlighting North Carolina food and culture.

Emceeing everything will be Bryan Welch of Mother Earth News and The Utne, The Pepper Festival takes place at the Great Meadow, Briar Chapel’s newest section, and all proceeds benefit Abundance NC (formerly Abundance Foundation), a nonprofit that cultivates and celebrates resilient communities by strengthening food systems, increasing renewable energy education and developing robust local economies. Abundance NC partners with Piedmont Biofarm and other Chatham County farms to supply local peppers for the festival.

Adults $25-$35, 12 and under free. Cash bar. Tickets may be purchased at or call 919-533-5181.
Great Meadow Park at Briar Chapel, 185 Granite Mill Blvd., Chapel Hill. (Enter Granite Mill Boulevard from Andrews Store Road near Margaret Pollard Middle School and follow signs to the festival.)