August 1, 2021


The accomplished food makers

Area chefs compete in first round of state competition

3 min read

Two Wilmington chefs recently took part in the first round of the N.C. Restaurant and Lodging Association’s (NCRLA) Chef Showdown at Carteret Community College culinary school in Morehead City.

Evan Parker, executive chef of Bluewater Waterfront Grill, and James Patterson, executive chef at Porters Neck Country Club, are both awaiting the judges’ ruling on who will advance to the semi-finals to be held next month. 

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, each chef presented their dish privately to a panel of judges for the first round of competition. Twenty chefs will be selected to move on to the semi-finals where a Judges Choice winner will be selected before the same 20 finalists move on to the People’s Choice Grand Finale in Durham on Aug. 9.

The Grand Finale is the only event that will be open to the public. 

Parker brings a wealth of experience to his new role at Bluewater, a position he was recently promoted to after joining the restaurant as executive sous chef in September of last year.

Parker said he believes the creativity and flavor of his nightly features caught the eye of Bluewater’s general manager as well as LM Restaurants’ corporate chef, who suggested he take part in the competition. 

Parker said he has competed in several other culinary competitions in the DC area, Las Vegas and Jackson, Wyoming. He also took part in the Food Network’s South Beach Food & Wine Festival during his five-year tenure as executive sous chef with the Inn at Little Washington in Washington, Virginia. 

Patterson is a veteran competitor in the Chef’s Showdown and its predecessor, the Got to Be NC Competition Dining Series, having made it to the finals more than once.

Born and raised in Wilmington, Patterson began his career in Charleston’s fine dining scene, before moving on to the Triangle. He joined McConnell Golf, a Raleigh-based company that owns over a dozen premier golf clubs throughout the Southeast, in 2005.

He went on to work at five of their clubs before accepting the position of executive chef at Porters Neck Country Club as well as McConnell’s corporate executive chef in charge of overseeing 14 other properties. 

For the first round of competition, chefs could cook anything they wanted, provided they showcased the region’s seasonal offerings and made use of N.C.-made products.

While they could not yet reveal what dish they presented to the judges, both Porter and Patterson said they were pleased with their performance in the first round and expect the results to be released within the next two weeks.

Patterson noted that he believes the talent and diversity of the participating chefs have increased over the years, raising the level of competition.

The Grand Finale event will also include a mixology competition with awards for People’s Choice honors and the title of 2021 NCRLA Mixologist & Distillery of the Year.

Tickets go on sale June 21, and more information can be found online.

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Correction: This version reflects the correct last name of Evan Parker.

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