The Tom Tom Founders Festival is hosting a public competition to select a signature dish for Charlottesville and the Piedmont region. Over the next several weeks, the public is invited to share the dish that best represents the distinct culinary tradition of the city. Dishes submitted will be reviewed in December by a panel of writers, chefs, and community members. The finalists will be unveiled in April at the seventh annual Tom Tom Founders Festival.  

Festival organizers conceived of the project in collaboration with local restaurateurs, chefs and writers during programming stakeholder meetings over the summer.

“In talking about Charlottesville’s food culture, we realized that there are no central dishes or cuisines the city is known for. Philadelphia is known for its cheesesteak, Charleston has shrimp & grits, and Chicago is famous for deep-dish pizza. Iconic cities have iconic dishes,” said Tom Tom Founders Festival and Executive Director, Paul Beyer. “Since Tom Tom is both focused on innovation and community, it seemed like a natural fit to invite the public to imagine what Charlottesville’s signature dish might be.”

Civic identity and the region’s brand for innovation and creativity have been central themes of the festival for years– encompassing food, technology, medical discovery, policy, and design.

“Charlottesville has been a center of culinary interests for many years,” said Charlottesville restaurateur and owner of  Ten Course Hospitality, Wilson Richey.  “We boast one of the largest restaurant-to-population ratios in the entire country. With so many restaurants and with such good camaraderie and collaborative spirit it only makes sense to establish an iconic signature dish of Charlottesville. Many of us who own restaurants are excited to work together on this project, and we look forward to hearing from folks around town to come to this conclusion together.”  

After the public nomination process an expert panel of chefs, restaurateurs, and food writers will select the dish that they determine to be the most representative of Charlottesville. The dishes will be reviewed with the following criteria in mind: can they be served as both high-cuisine and approachable comfort food, do they use local ingredients, and do they represent the cultural history of the region?

The winning dish will be unveiled during Farm to Table Restaurant Week and at the Community Picnic. The restaurant week will run the week of the festival: April 9-15, 2018. All participating restaurants will be featuring a version of the dish as some component of their pre-fixe menu. Tom Tom is inviting the public to bring their interpretation of the dish at the Community Picnic which launches the festival on April 9, 2018.

For many years now, Tom Tom has featured the best chefs, mixologists, and thought leaders in Charlottesville’s food scene, and invited the community to participate in picnics, competitions, and showdowns. The Charlottesville Signature Dish competition is part of this year’s expansion of food programming at the festival.

Submissions will be open until November 30th. For more information, visit