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Mac 'n' cheese, please

Charlotteans dish on that one staple food we all make

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Who knew noodles, cheese, eggs, milk and a few other simple seasonings would be enough to keep humans salivating for centuries?

Macaroni and cheese is serious business here in the South, and discussing the rich iconic dish this close to the holidays is a sure way to either make someone's mouth water, start a great conversation or start a big argument about the best way to make it.

While no one knows exactly who made the very first pan of ooey gooey deliciousness that has decorated tables across this country for generations, the first recipe for macaroni and cheese is believed to have originated somewhere in Italy. The dish was further popularized when president Thomas Jefferson introduced it to the U.S. in 1789 after a trip to Naples.

Wherever it started, one thing is for sure, macaroni and cheese is holding steady atop the list of America's most popular comfort foods with no signs of falling. According to mymacaroniandcheeseinfo.com the dish is so popular that food giant Kraft sells over one million boxes of it each day and in any given week over half the children in the U.S. will consume at least one serving of the popular dish. Crayola even named an orangish-yellow crayon after macaroni and cheese just so you know the love is totally real.

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On December 3, Charlotte will pay homage to the popular dish at the already sold out Macaroni and Cheese Festival, taking place at Sugar Creek Brewery. All these great macaroni and cheese facts got us here at CL wondering just what goes into a great pan of macaroni and cheese and what some folks' favorite recipes and techniques are. So we stepped out into the city to get a few local residents' points of view on the famous dish.

Nappy Chef, Professional Chef

Creative Loafing: We keep hearing about your Jerk Chicken Macaroni and Cheese Au Fromage, and how spicy it is. What makes your version of the dish so special?

Nappy Chef: My mac and cheese is inspired by my love of Carribean food and traditional baked macaroni and cheese. What makes my version so good is the creativity of the dish and the different flavors that you taste in every bite. The spices I use, like ground mustard and fresh jalepenos, give my mac its unique taste.

Chef D, Cuzzo's Cuisine Food Truck

Locals swear by your lobster macaroni and cheese but let's be honest, do you still like the regular kind?

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Chef D: Heck yeah, I still like the regular kind! Where do you think the lobster mac and cheese recipe comes from? It comes from my regular mac and cheese and the secret to that is simple, always use more than one type of cheese, keep it moist and creamy and season it well with salt and pepper. I always go for the crust on the corners and we all know the burnt part is the best!

Nicole Banks, Property Manager

What's your best macaroni and cheese memory?

Banks: My aunt Ellen always made the best macaroni and cheese. No professional chef can touch it. I was so happy when my kids finally became old enough to enjoy it too. When I think of the holidays I literally think of enjoying her left over macaroni and cheese for days.

Andre Poole, Party Promoter/ Johnson & Wales Culinary Grad

We've heard a lot of tips for good macaroni and cheese, but what are some ways to ruin the dish?

Poole: Over cooking the pasta is a definite no. Not adding enough seasoning is just as bad and burning it and drying it out are the worst. I treat my macaroni and cheese the same way I treat my parties. The secret ingredient is love. You've got to treat your food like a baby. Give that baby all the love it needs!

Brittany Lockhart, Hair Stylist

Your recipe is different than the traditional ones. What's your technique?

Lockhart: My secret is no eggs and only fresh pure ingredients and seasonings and I never boil my noodles in water. I can't give away any other details, all I can tell you is that my family and friends go crazy for it every time I make it.

Matthew Saunders, Retail Manager

The great debate is between the homemade kind or the boxed kind. Help us decide which one reigns supreme.

Saunders: I'll eat both the boxed or homemade kind. For me, the main determining factor is the number of people I'm cooking for. If I'm cooking for a large group I go homemade with 4 different cheeses. If it's just for me, my girlfriend and my 3-year old son I'm using the boxed kind all day. If my son is cool with it then so am I and he like both kinds so its all good!

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