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  • Writer's pictureTopsail Times

Own Your Own Restaurant Competition Announces Competition Updates and “Burgaw Now” Documentary

By Jessica Maurer

On Oct. 21, 2023 the final 24 Own Your Own (OYO) competitors will face off in Burgaw, NC. On the line is a restaurant space and a one million dollar budget to design and build the restaurant of their dreams.

“We’re excited to have selected a date for the 24 finalists to come to Burgaw and showcase their talent to the locals,” said OYO founder, Richard Johnson. “Each competitor will have a 10x10 tent and the equipment necessary to prepare and serve their signature dish to community members who will vote for their favorites.”

The OYO competition, launched this past January, has already attracted 500 applicants from 26 states. Applications are still being accepted until July 15th.

After careful review, 280 applicants moved on to the second round. Of those, 180 remain. Next up, the OYO team will continue to winnow down the list to the Judges Round, from which the final 24 will be chosen and announced in August.

A panel of local award-winning judges will have a say in who advances in the competition. Judges include Christi Ferretti of Pine Valley Market, Dean Neff of Seabird, Keith Rhodes of Catch, and Myra McDuffie of Mema’s Chick’n n’ Ribs.

The OYO Town Square Cook Off Competition will coincide with the town’s inaugural Autumn Fest, which will feature a wide range of activities for all ages including music, art, vendors and food. The cookoff will take place along Courthouse Avenue, home of the new OYO restaurant space. Following the event, 12 finalists will be selected to compete in additional challenges to determine who will earn the keys to the next OYO restaurant. This will be Johnson’s third restaurant in Burgaw.

“A key element to our success is finding the right person who can succeed at running a restaurant and will also be supported by the town," Johnson said. "The success of Fat Daddy’s and Burgaw Brewing made me realize the model we have developed in Burgaw can be replicated in small towns across America.”

This time around the OYO team is taking the time to make a documentary of how they helped to revitalize a small town by creating a vibrant restaurant scene. Click here to see the OYO trailer for "Burgaw Now"

"We are so proud of the work we are doing and want to share our story," Johnson said. "We also want to show how the OYO model can be used to create sparks of opportunity in other towns and communities.”

In addition to running the competition and making the documentary, OYO is in talks to explore the idea of developing a television show based on the competition and its impact on Burgaw. If you have any questions related to the competition, the documentary, or a potential show idea, please feel free to contact us at


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