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Achievers & Accolades

Rhodes, Clark Earn Tourism Awards

By Staff Reports, posted May 29, 2023

The Wilmington and Beaches Convention & Visitors Bureau recently announced the winners of two major tourism awards.

 This year’s Tourism Star winner is Ali Clark, Customer Service Specialist at End of Days Distillery, and the 2023 Jane Peterson Tourism Legacy honoree is Chef Keith Rhodes, co-owner and executive chef of CATCH Modern Seafood restaurant, according to a CVB news release.

Established in 2017, the Tourism Star Award recognizes hospitality and tourism industry professionals "who demonstrate pride and commitment to the hospitality industry and exemplify a selfless spirit of service and leadership that enhances the visitor experience," the release stated.

Clark (pictured at right) is described by employer Beth Faulkner as a "'true bright light' whose positive and enthusiastic spirit shines through with every guest who enters End of Days Distillery. During daily tours, Ali spends as much time sharing why she loves calling Wilmington home as she spends showcasing distillery spirits and the building’s award-winning preservation efforts.

"Ali also encourages distillery guests to explore neighboring small businesses in the up-and-coming Cargo District and makes recommendations on ways to enjoy all that Wilmington has to offer.  Her excellent communication and customer service skills garner consistent positive feedback from guests. Committed to sharing the same Southern hospitality that she experienced upon moving to Wilmington from Ohio, Ali’s greatest thrill is when a guest walks away happy with their experience."

The Tourism Legacy Award (formerly the Tourism Pioneer Award) was established in 2018 in honor of the late Jane Peterson, the CVB’s first executive director, to recognize "visionary leadership and significant contributions" to the hospitality industry, according to the release.

Rhodes, an Eastern North Carolina native worked as executive chef in Wilmington’s top restaurants before opening his own flagship restaurant, Catch Modern Seafood, with his partner and wife, Angela in 2006. They have since expanded the business to include CATCH the Food Truck and TackleBox Food Truck. 

A 2023 James Beard Foundation Best Chef Southeast semi-finalist who also holds the distinction of being Wilmington’s first and only Bravo TV Top Chef contestant, Rhodes "has played a key role in elevating the dining scene in Wilmington and our Island Beaches. Wilmington recently made its global culinary debut when a YouTube video by food vlogger Mark Wiens featuring Chef Rhodes went viral with 3 million views, inspiring visitors to travel to Wilmington from as far away as Canada, Texas, Minnesota, Atlanta, New York and states in-between to sample Catch’s New Southern Cuisine," the release stated. 

He has been featured in regional publications such as Our State and Garden & Gun magazines. During filming of Iron Man 3, actress Gwyneth Paltrow featured a cooking lesson with Chef Rhodes on her wildly popular blog Goop.com. Most recently, Rhodes was named an official Gullah Culinarian by the National Park Service and he currently serves on the N.C. Restaurant & Lodging Association Board of Trustees.

The release also stated, "Chef Rhodes has further proven his commitment to the tourism industry by hosting numerous food/travel writers and representing Visit North Carolina and the Wilmington and Beaches CVB at media missions and tourism conferences."

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