Courtney Valvo didn't get the nickname "Her Hopness" overnight. After slinging drinks at Pizza Peel and other bars around town, she ventured into hosting farm-to-table dinners with boyfriend and, more importantly, chef Jamie Lynch [of Barrington's]. Other endeavors, such as her work with local artist organization Culture Initiative and the freshly opened NoDa Brewery — where she reigns over sales, marketing and event planning — have earned her the title. For her latest project, she's joined forces with Charlotte Connoisseur (www.charlotteconnoisseur.com) to create an alternative dining experience for folks on the Q.C. front to enjoy.
Creative Loafing: For those unfamiliar with Charlotte Connoisseur, what are its key elements?
Charlotte Connoisseur is made up of Jamie Fedele and Shawn Gentry. It spotlights well-known and not so well-known restaurants, so that when people are looking for something interesting to do and something good to eat, they don't have to just depend on Yelp; they can do something even more local. Charlotte Connoisseur has a 4,000-person database of local business owners of all sorts. They sell tickets to some beer dinners that NoDa Brewery participates in. At the dinners, chefs pair the beer and the food and use the beer in the food. I have a brewer from NoDa that comes with me and explains what's going into the beer, the ingredients and how it pairs with the food.
What attracted you to getting involved with the company?
I like the idea of promoting small local businesses. Food and drink and local are huge passions of mine. I'm interconnected in a lot of different areas. The coolest thing to me about what we're trying to do is that it's kind of like an underground supper club. We only sell 50 tickets and you're not 100 percent sure what you're going to eat, what you're going to drink or even where it's going to be; you find out last minute, so it adds a little bit of fun to it and a little bit of exclusivity but without being snobby. I think it's something Charlotte has been lacking, but we're so focused on food and fun that we need it.
Have food and locally grown goods always been an important part of your life?
I'm Italian, so food has always just been a big part of my lifestyle. My mom was always big about making her own sauces and pasta and all that. Once Jamie and I got together, I was able to have a good outlet to not only learn more and cook more, but to go to the farms to see where our food grows. We have chickens in our backyard that we free range for eggs — for our own use and Jamie uses them at the restaurant. I think it's important that people realize what they're putting in their body and where it comes from. There are always alternatives to fast food and ways to actually eat smart.