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The Daily Tar Heel

Local chef to compete for cruise ship position

One of six ?nal chefs for top job

Orange County chef
Orange County native Beth LittleJohn, sous chef at Coquette Brasserie, is one of six finalists competing in the Allure of the Seas Culinary Challenge.

For Beth LittleJohn, cooking has been a passion since she was in middle school. And it’s taken her all the way from Chapel Hill to the Caribbean.

A sous chef at Raleigh’s French restaurant Coquette Brasserie, this Orange County native’s passion has driven her through culinary school, several restaurants and now to her most recent endeavor: the Allure of the Seas Culinary Challenge.

Royal Caribbean International launched an online contest open to graduates of The Culinary Institute of America, in which the public votes for their favorite video of an alum chef preparing one of their favorite dishes — LittleJohn prepared a frisée arugula salad with a tempora-fried poached egg.

LittleJohn is one of six finalists selected to participate in a final challenge in New York.

The winning chef will be offered a one-year contract as the Chef de Cuisine for 150 Central Park, the signature restaurant on board the Allure of the Seas cruise ship.

“I didn’t think anything would come of it, and then I got picked,” LittleJohn said. “It was very spontaneous, I literally did one take.”

Although LittleJohn’s decision to enter the contest was last minute, her dedication to food is not. She first got interested in cooking after a middle school field trip to Mama Dip’s Traditional Country Cooking on West Rosemary Street.

“That was the first time I really got into it and really thought that I wanted to be a chef,” she said.

She spent the rest of her school years experimenting with food.

“I remember when all of our friends were home on break from college, we would come home and go straight to Beth’s house, and she would make something while we all talked and caught up,” said Wilder Horner, a longtime friend of Beth.

“Beth’s food was one of those central things that brought us together as friends.”

After high school, she attended Wheaton College and received a bachelor’s degree in sociology.

She earned her associate’s degree from The Culinary Institute of America in 2006, and then worked at the Carolina Inn for two years.

“She was always coming out with new ideas, and her brain was constantly working on different flavors,” Nick Alwon-Mount said, who worked with LittleJohn at the Carolina Inn.

Within a year, she moved up through the ranks to the sous chef position. She then moved to the Nordstrom Café, where she worked for about 10 months. She cited the fact that her originality was stifled by corporate requirements for menus as her reason for leaving.

She then began work at her current position as sous chef at Coquette Brasserie, where she has worked for about a month.

LittleJohn will go to New York Aug. 5 to Aug. 6 to meet with the other contestants and complete the final task of the competition, which involves cooking a three-course meal for a panel of judges and then being interviewed by them.

“This is the time of my life to do something like this,” she said.“When you’re young and not tied down, it’s the time in life to try new things and experiment and to do something that could be an amazing experience.

“But what I will miss the most if I get this job is being away from my dog and my cat. They are my babies.”

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