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Posted on: December 17, 2021

Big Dreams and Buttermilk Pie: Tiesha Whittaker Is Named Pastry Chef of the Year 2021

Tiesha Whittaker

Tiesha WhittakerTiesha Whittaker with her award, 2021 Pastry Chef of the Year. Photo credit: Eamon Queeny for the NCRLA.


Tiesha Whittaker has a passion for baking, and in August, her talents were recognized. Whittaker was one of the 48 chefs chosen to compete in the North Carolina Restaurant and Lodging Association Chef Showdown Competition.

This annual event spans six months and consists of three rounds. The competition begins with a preliminary round, then expands to regional, and ends with the grand finale where attendees are the judges.

The final round of competition is held in Durham, North Carolina. This past August, 350 guests attended, and chefs prepared an estimated 250 portions of their best dishes and desserts.

After the food had been tasted and judged, only two chefs received the prestigious title Chef of the Year in their respective categories. Whittaker, the only chef from Clayton in the competition, was named 2021 Pastry Chef of the Year.

Whittaker with her father, AJ Lewis. Lewis was her sous chef for the competition’s final event. Whittaker with her father, AJ Lewis. Lewis was her sous chef for the competition’s final event. Photo credit: Eamon Queeny for the NCRLA.

"I loved competing in the Chef Showdown. It gave me an opportunity to showcase the desserts that I dream about for the people I love,” said Whittaker. “This year's desserts were dedicated to my dad who has been one of my biggest fans.”

Whittaker’s journey started when she was young. Her grandmother instilled a deeply rooted appreciation and love for baking within her heart. Whittaker fondly recalls childhood memories when she and her grandmother would bake for church and community events.

Whittaker’s grandmother always dreamed the two of them would one day open a pie shop together. Before they could bring this dream to life, her grandmother passed away from cancer in 2009.

"Winning the Chef Showdown was a dream come true. I've come a long way since my grandmother's buttermilk pie. I hope she's proud of how our business idea has grown,” said Whittaker.

Seven years ago, Whittaker moved to Clayton, and in 2014 she opened Buttermilk Boutique, named after her grandmother’s signature buttermilk pies.

Buttermilk Boutique offers a variety of desserts, from wedding cakes to artisan chocolates. The bakery is a popular choice for wedding and event catering and also wholesales desserts to local restaurants. The business currently operates out of Whittaker’s home, but she hopes to open a brick-and-mortar bakery soon.

For more Buttermilk Boutique content and information on her services, visit Whittaker’s website, www.buttermilkboutique.com.

Tiesha Whittaker Food SampleWhittaker’s delicious creations were served at the NCRLA Chef Showdown. Photo Credit: Eamon Queeny for the NCRLA.

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