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What If Your Wilmington Home Came with an Award-Winning Chef?

Tuesday, July 10, 2018   /   by Anne Rose

What If Your Wilmington Home Came with an Award-Winning Chef?

Home buyers always start the search with a list of must-haves for their new home: open concept main floor, master ensuite, granite countertops, privacy fence. The more of those must-haves a real estate agent can check-off, the closer a client moves to a home-buying decision.

Then there's that other list, those new home items that are more fantasy than reality. Every home-buyer has them. Infinity pool. Boat dock (with a boat). Gourmet kitchen (with an award-winning personal chef). 

Odds are, your new home won't come with an award-winning chef, but if you buy a home in Wilmington NC, you will have an impressive lineup of culinary talent just steps from your front door. 

The Cape Fear area has been diligently growing its foodie scene for the last decade. Local restaurants attract top caliber culinary talent and boast innovative menus. With a full calendar of food-related events, festivals, advanced level cooking classes, food truck rodeos, and local chef competitions, Wilmington is both a foodie destination and a food-lovers home town. Wilmington's hospitality professionals are connected enough to the rest of the country to reflect the hottest industry trends. The city itself is still small enough that its well-lauded chefs come out of the kitchen to chat with diners, and are even excited to lend their talents to private functions. 

Wilmington is a foodie town. When Guy Fieri of Diners, Dives, and Drive-ins visited a handful of local establishments, he was thronged with adoring fans and dedicated food lovers. Wilmington's own award-winning chefs have loyal foodie followers, and local publications regularly feature culinary-scene interviews and drool-worthy food pictorials.

Here are a few Wilmington chefs with resumes to boast about:

Chef Vivian Howard, Benny's Big Time Pizzeria

Chef Vivian Howard was a semifinalist for the coveted James Beard Foundation Best Chef Southeast award. Last year, she won the James Beard Foundation Best Television Personality honor. She has also won a Daytime Emmy Award for Best Culinary Program for the PBS show, "A Chef's Life." Chef Howard's Wilmington restaurant, Benny’s Big Time Pizzeria (206 Greenfield Street, Wilmington) is a departure from her signature Southern food bias, serving wood-fired pizza, risotto, and other family-centric Italian dishes. Her renowned first restaurant, the Chef & the Farmer in Kinston NC, calls itself a “progressive eatery.” Located about an hour and half north of Wilmington, Chef & the Farmer is noted for creative cuisine that finds its inspiration in regional ingredients and cooking traditions. 

Chef Sam Cahoon, Savorez

Sam Cahoon is executive chef and owner of Savorez (402 Chestnut Street, Wilmington), a widely applauded new restaurant in downtown Wilmington, which features Latin-inspired cuisine with Southern flair. Chef Cahoon won the Agrarian Stewardship Award at Feast Down East’s eighth annual Local Food Conference, recognizing his personal contributions to the local food movement. He was 2016 winner of the Got to Be NC Competition Dining Series – Wilmington – the first Wilmington-born chef to win that award. A Wilmington Wine & Food Festival People’s Choice Award went to Cahoon for Savorez’ shrimp and grits with chorizo gravy and goat cheese polenta.


Chef Keith Rhodes, Catch

Chef Keith Rhodes has been voted Wilmington’s best chef three years in a row. Rhodes was nominated by the James Beard Foundation as a finalist for Best Southeast Chef. He participated on Bravo TV’s Top Chef Season 9. Definitely a Cape Fear cooking celebrity, Chef Rhodes has developed a menu at his restaurant Catch (6623 Market Street, Wilmington) that features modern seafood dishes, organic produce, and locally sourced herbs. The claim that Catch serves “the best seafood found across North Carolina’s Cape Fear Coast,” is well-founded. The menu varies regularly, depending upon market availability of seafood and other ingredients. Chef Rhodes made a celebrity appearance in a recent television advertisement for the Wilmington Regional Airport. Pictured above: Catch Miso-Honey Glazed "Verlasso" Salmon served with stir-fry drunken noodles, seasonal vegetables, micro sprouts, and herbs.

Fanny Slater, Author and TV Personality

Fanny Slater, a Wilmington-based food blogger, social media influencer, and cookbook author, won Rachel Ray’s Great American Cookbook Competition, and garnered a publishing contract. Her first cookbook, Orange, Lavender & Figs: Deliciously Different Recipes from a Passionate Eater, offers a delicious blend of Southern cooking and innovative food pairings. Slater co-hosted the Food Network series Kitchen Sink. She often appears on local programs, keeping foodies up-to-date on restaurant, micro-brewery, and foodie news.

To get the scoop on Wilmington's food scene, follow Kirk Pugh’s Tasty Tuesday restaurant videos on YouTube.


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