In front of New Hampshire Lodging & Restaurant Association (NHLRA) dignitaries and Celebrity Chefs, New Hampshire Motor Speedway executive vice president and general manager Jerry Gappens officially waved the green flag on the beginning of NH Restaurant Week.

Standing on the Granite Stripe, which serves as the Magic Mile's start/finish line, Gappens gave Celebrity Chefs personalized hand-engraved knives to commemorate the occasion.

"We start races right here, so why not start New Hampshire Restaurant Week right here on the Granite Stripe here at the Magic Mile," said Gappens, donning a chef's coat in honor of the second annual eight-day statewide event. "It made a lot of sense to start this at New Hampshire Motor Speedway because all of our great fans that are here during NASCAR weekends and events throughout the year. They're great consumers of food and they fill the local restaurants and hotels by being here, so it certainly helps the state's economy.

"Not to be lost in all that is that we here transcend into the largest restaurant in New Hampshire, feeding 100,000 people in concessions and another 10,000 to 12,000 in our hospitality villages and suites."

Over the course of the summer, speedway events will pump close to $400 million dollars into the local economy due to the number of fans attracted for major events. Much of that fuels the state's restaurant industry.

"We recognize the importance of New Hampshire Motor Speedway to our state economy, especially in restaurants and hotels," said NHLRA CEO/President Mike Somers. "Like the speedway serves as a getaway for people on race weekends, we're hoping that New Hampshire Restaurant Week inspires foodies to get out and take in a part of the state they've never been to."

The eight-day event, slated for May 17-24, features more than 150 restaurants presenting three-course prix fixe menus for lunch and/or dinner. Anyone eating at those restaurants will be given a survey that includes a coupon book, where a party of two will have the option to buy two tickets to the New Hampshire 300 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race on July 14 for $99. Parties of four will have the option to buy four tickets for $99, while parties of six will have the option to buy six tickets for $99.

"Going out to a restaurant is all about the experience," said Gappens. "That's what you'll get when you visit restaurants in New Hampshire, and that's what you'll get when you visit us here at New Hampshire Motor Speedway."

The Celebrity Chefs were chosen for their contributions to the culinary community in New Hampshire, according to the NHLRA. They each strive to bring quality food, unique menus and a higher standard to the restaurant offerings in the Granite State.

The Celebrity Chefs representing Restaurant Week NH are:

  • Chef      Tony Dedek representing Levy Restaurants
  • Chef      Nicole Barreira representing Great NH Restaurants
  • Chef      Benjamin Knack representing Bedford Village Inn
  • Chef      Scott Ouellette representing Magic Foods Catering
  • Chef      Jeffrey Paige representing Cotton
  • Chef      Bud Selmi representing Margarita Grill
  • Chef      Todd Sweet representing Portsmouth Brewery
  • Chef      Roland von Gunten representing The Common Man

"It's an absolutely fabulous event," said Chef Nicole Barreira. "It's just a really unique, cool event for New Hampshire to allow us to feature all the amazing chefs throughout the state and encourage people to go out and try something new."

The event was capped off with a tasting in the hospitality suites high above the speedway, where the Celebrity Chefs showed off some of their favorite menu items from their respective restaurants.