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MEDIA ADVISORY: BugFest Critter Cook-off chefs and judges announced

Media Advisory
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE — September 6, 2012
Contact: Emelia.Cowans@naturalsciences.org; 919.707.9837

Reigning BugFest Critter Cook-off Champ, Chef Michael Lee of Sono, returns to defend his title against Jibarra’s Chef Oscar Diaz

RALEIGH — Japanese and Mexican bug-inspired cuisines take center stage at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences’ annual BugFest Critter Cook-off on Friday, September 14, at 11 a.m. in the first floor Treasures Hall of the main building of the Museum.

The Critter Cook-off is the official start to BugFest 2012, which is the next day from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. This insect version of Iron Chef features Chef Oscar Diaz, Executive Chef at Jibarra, and Chef Michael Lee, Executive Chef of Sono, who is the reigning BugFest Critter Cook-off Champion!  The public and media are invited to attend. The Critter Cook-off will last about an hour, with opportunities for the media to sample critter concoctions and interview chefs, judges, and the public.

Each chef has 50 minutes to create an appetizer, entrée and dessert using mealworms (mealworm beetle larvae), wax worms (caterpillar larvae of wax moths), crickets, super worms (darkling beetle larvae) and a “mystery” bug.  Each dish will be judged on taste, originality and presentation. The chef whose buggy grub wows our panel of celebrity judges earns the title of BugFest Critter Cook-off Champion 2012!

Returning this year is a panel of esteemed, seasoned bug eaters including Steve Daniels, from ABC-11, Debra Morgan, of WRAL-TV 5, and Dr. Meg Lowman, Director of the Museum’s new wing, the Nature Research Center (NRC). New to the judge’s panel is Julie Fertig, News 14 Carolina. A special guest at this year’s Critter Cook-off  will be Dr. Mark Moffett (aka Dr. Bugs), author of “Adventures Among Ants” and one of the featured speakers at BugFest. BugFest, the Museum’s largest event of the year and the largest one-day bug event of its kind in the country, takes place on Saturday, September 15 from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. with free admission and activities.

Chef Bios

Michael Lee, Executive Chef, Sono, Raleigh
Michael Lee is the Chef/Owner of Sono Japanese Restaurant in downtown Raleigh.  He started his apprenticeship in 1994 under a master Washoku chef.  Working at local restaurants, even during his high school years, has helped him to learn fast and adapt to the unique style of Japanese cooking. After years of training and working as an executive chef to help open many successful restaurants across the country, Chef Michael opened Sono in 2007.  Since then he has been working hard to adapt and create cuisines that are unique and local to satisfy the taste buds of the triangle.

Oscar Diaz, Executive Chef, Jibarra, Raleigh
Since taking over Jibarra last summer, Chef Oscar Diaz  has brought professional technique and a few well-guarded family recipes to his menu. Originally from Chicago, he invokes his Mexican heritage when shaping his dishes, which feature locally grown produce and fresh ingredients. A large part of his spice repertoire resides in layering the flavors of dried peppers; he never uses just one pepper in any of his dishes. This is the foundation for his mole—a recipe he refuses to share!

Judge Bios

Dr. Meg Lowman, Director, Nature Research Center at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences (NRC)
Meg Lowman pioneered the science of canopy ecology. For 30 years, she has designed hot-air balloons and walkways for treetop exploration to solve mysteries in the world’s forests, with special expertise on the links between insect pests and ecosystem health. Meg is affectionately called the “Mother of Canopy Research” as one of the first scientists to explore this “eighth continent.”

Steve Daniels, Anchor/Reporter, ABC-11
Steve Daniels just can’t get enough of those buggy dishes, returning as a judge for the 3rd year. Steve is co-anchor of the ABC-TV 11 Eyewitness News. Prior to coming to the Triangle, he traveled the country and the world reporting stories for “Dateline NBC.” Steve has also been a contributor on the “Today” show, “NBC Nightly News,” MSNBC and CNBC. He has won seven Emmys and several other national awards for outstanding investigative reporting.

Debra Morgan, Anchor, WRAL
Debra Morgan is a two-time Emmy Award winner; 2006 Five Star Award winner; Women of Achievement in Journalism from the N.C. Women’s Club winner; and a Leadership Triangle graduate. Debra is a member of many community organizations, such as the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation (Triangle Chapter) and the Caring Community Foundation, to name a few.

Julie Fertig, Reporter, News 14 Carolina
A native of Alameda, California, Julie Fertig graduated from the University of Arizona in 2006 with a degree in journalism and a minor in communications. During her senior year of college, she received the 2006 Excellence in Broadcast Journalism Award from the University of Arizona Journalism Department. While in college, Julie interned for KVOA, the NBC affiliate in Tucson, Ariz., and for CNN's Showbiz Tonight in Los Angeles. Julie landed her first job in television news at KOB, an NBC affiliate in Roswell, N.M., where she received an Associated Press Award for continuing coverage of a town devastated by a tornado. In her free time, Julie can be found cheering on the University of Arizona Wildcats, especially during basketball season. She also loves to go to the beach, run and spend time with her family and friends.

Publish Date: 
Monday, September 10, 2012