Finding Diversity in Our Growing Food Scene

From a birdseye view, Charlotte has a growing diverse food scene. Restaurants that are globally inpsired are popping up everywhere, and with it a new emerging work force. But is that work force as diverse as the restaruants are themselves. We will zoom in from the birdseye view to the kitchen view and discuss ways to improve diversity and also show our diversity to the community.


Cat Carter

Cat Carter is a branding and strategy consultant and freelance writer residing in Charlotte, NC. Her work is often focused on the the food and beverage industry. She founded and was the editor-in-chief of Edible Charlotte, a former publication celebrating the local food scene. She also helped to found the Piedmont Culinary Guild and Farm Hands, a grassroots organization that provides micro-grants to area farmers.


Greg Collier
Chef/Owner – The Yolk | Founder – Soul Food Sessions

Gregory Collier always had a special place in his heart for food and its preparations. He attended Scottsdale Community College Culinary Program in Scottsdale, Arizona. It was at the Phoenician Resort as a Breakfast Chef where he improved his technique in the preparation of breakfast foods, especially eggs. In 2012, he and his wife, Subrina, moved to Charlotte, NC opened The Yolk in Rock Hill, SC – where he continues his love affair with breakfast. Greg is also one of the founders of Soul Food Sessions – a Charlotte-based group of African American chefs and mixologists working to bring diversity to the hospitality industry.

Zhenia Martinez
Owner – Las Delicias Bakery

Zhenia Martinez has been working in the food industry for over twenty years. She has worked in various capacities. She has worked for about six years in non-profits before moving to Charlotte in 2005 to help her parents with the family business, a Mexican Bakery. While at the bakery she learned all positions of the bakery and in 2011 took over the business.

Majid Amoorpour

Majid Amoorpour’s culinary journey winds it way from Iran, Sweden, Great Britain, Chicago, and Oklahoma City to Charlotte. He enrolled in art school at 19 and took a job in a Chinese restaurant to pay the bills. This would open the doors to a career in the industry that has included working in some of the kitchens of Sweden’s finest restaurants. He eventually landed in Charlotte, NC – where he has worked all over The Queen City, including Fig Tree, Sonoma, Café Monte, and Dean & Deluca – eventually opening his own place, Bistro La Bon, in 2010. These days, Majid is working on a new dining concept with plans to open in the coming year.

Terra Ciotta / MBA, BA, AAS, CCC
Culinary Instructor – The Art Institute of Charlotte

A founding member of the Piedmont Culinary Guild, Terra Ciotta has over 23 years of experience in the culinary industry and has learned specialized skills ranging from beekeeping to cheese making. She has worked with notable area chefs including Charles Semail at Chefs Charles Catering, Luca Annunziata at Passion 8, and Adam Reed of Santé Restaurant. She holds an MBA with a focus on Hospitality Management from South University, a Bachelor of Arts in History from Spring Hill College in Mobile AL, and an Associate’s in Applied Science in Culinary Arts from The Art Institute of Charlotte. She achieved the status of Certified Chef de Cuisine (CCC) from The American Culinary Federation and is working toward a certification as a Chef Educator (CCE).

Michael Chanthavong
Executive Chef – O-Ku/Charlotte

Sharing a passion for cooking with his parents, immigrants of Laos, Michael Chanthavong grew up surrounded by South­east Asian food. He diversified his expertise in the kitchen by spending time with friends of different ethnic backgrounds. This inspiration to grow and experiment new skills intensifies in his role as executive chef of O-Ku Charlotte. Born in Rochester, New York, Michael has been a resident of North Carolina since 1992, moving to Charlotte in 2004. He has 13 years of experience in the hospitality industry and eight years of sushi experience. He loves that food is at the center of bringing people together and believes that “great food tends to come with great company.”