Cooking Local: Pickled Shrimp Lettuce Cups

by Ray Linville | Photography by Diana Matthews

“I’ve always loved to cook. My mother always let me help her, even when I was very young, and I stood on a step stool when I couldn’t reach the counter. By the time I was 9, I was cooking for the whole family,” says Ivory Whitley Mulholland, this month’s featured chef. Chef Ivory’s pickled shrimp lettuce cups will be highlighted at The Chef’s Feast, the annual fundraiser for the Sandhills Branch of the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina that will be held on Oct. 16 at Pine Needles Resort.

Why pickled shrimp? “I want to feature North Carolina ingredients and have something Southern, but light and crisp,” she says.

Chef Ivory has a special relationship with the Sandhills Branch. She has demonstrated healthy food preparation at its open houses and has given tips – how to sneak vegetables into muffins and extend the life of fresh vegetables in soups and casseroles – at meetings attended by the branch’s partner agencies. She also is the only chef to be featured at every Chef’s Feast.

“Chef Ivory is the only chef who has been with us from the beginning,” says Michael Cotten, director of the Sandhills Branch. “She remains a crowd favorite. We will have a tremendous variety of food samplings, and her dishes complement everything else marvelously.”

For a Chefs’ Feast, she’s never content to bring only one signature dish. Last year she served pulled pork with pickled collards and peach bourbon barbecue sauce as well as strawberry sorghum sticky buns. In addition to lettuce cups for this year’s event, she will make pimiento mac ‘n’ cheese with pork cracklins gratin and oatmeal cream pies with miso buttercream filling.

Really, oatmeal cream pies? “Actually, they are my best selling item. Everybody just loves them,” she says.

With business partner Jen Karlowicz (both are military spouses), she owns and operates Spoon Lickers Catering, which offers healthy meals weekly through the online ordering service Supper Meals. In addition, they cater weddings, workshops, retreats, parties and open houses.

Born and raised in Alaska, Chef Ivory now has North Carolina also in her heart. However, the cool interior temperatures of her home let you know that she hasn’t fully adapted to the heat of the South. She met husband Michael Mulholland, a career Army officer assigned to Fort Bragg, while he was stationed at Fort Wainwright in Fairbanks.

Now homeowners in the Sandhills, they share a sense of adventure with travel, healthy food and exercise. The chef works out seven days a week and her husband, who played lacrosse at West Point, works hard to keep up with her.

Ray Linville writes about local connections to Southern food, history and culture. He can be reached at


Makes 8-10 appetizer-sized servings


1 pound large shrimp or prawns
(peeled, deveined and butterflied)

½ small red onion, thinly sliced

1 cup seasoned rice vinegar

1 thumb fresh ginger, diced

2 cloves garlic, diced

1/3 jalapeno, thinly sliced

Pinch of salt

Lettuce Cups

8-10 leaves of butter lettuce, rinsed and dried

2 radishes, thinly sliced

½ green tomato, thinly sliced

3 tablespoons kimchi, thinly sliced
(spiciness is up to you, I like it hot!)


1/3 cup Duke’s Mayonnaise

2 tablespoon Thai sweet chili sauce

2 teaspoon white miso

Dash of fish sauce or soy sauce

Zest of 1 lime


1. To prepare shrimp, combine rice vinegar, ginger, garlic, jalapeno and salt in a small sauce pan. Bring to a boil. Place shrimp in small oven-safe glass dish. Pour boiling mixture over shrimp and bake at 400 degrees for 5 minutes. Remove and let cool. Refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight.

2. Whisk sauce ingredients until combined.

3. Assemble lettuce cups by filling lettuce leaves with shrimp and assorted sliced veggies. Top with sauce and enjoy!

Chef’s Tip: Serve all the above ingredients over chilled short grain rice and you have a delicious grain bowl. Two cups of cooked rice with the above ingredients make four hearty grain bowls.

Ivory Whitley Mulholland operates Spoon Lickers Catering. She will be featured at The Chefs’ Feast, the fundraiser of Sandhills Food Bank Branch at Pine Needles Resort on Oct. 16, when she will serve her eclectic lettuce cups and two other signature dishes. Call the Food Bank at 910-692-5959 for ticket and event information.