North Carolina Azalea Festival

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Chefs’ Showcase: a Kick-Off Event

February 2, 2020 @ 1:00 pm - 4:30 pm


The Chefs’ Showcase was a new event to the Festival in 2018. This afternoon culinary adventure is a seated, 5-course meal with wine pairings, light entertainment, high-end silent auction items, and a luxury vacation raffle. Notable chefs from our region (and beyond!) work together to prepare the dishes…they always cook up something exciting!

2020 Chef’s Showcase

The next Chefs’ Showcase will take place on February 1, 2020!  We will have more information this fall on the 2020 Chefs, menu, silent auction, and vacation raffle.  Please see below for what amazing things happened at the 2019 Chefs’ Showcase.

2019 Chefs’ Showcase Chefs:
First Course: Chef James Patterson – Sedgefield Country Club
Second Course: Chef Steve Foote – LM Restaurants Corporate Chef
Third Course: Chef Matt Register – Southern Smoke BBQ
Fourth Course: Chef William “Kelly” Robey – Hotel Ballast
Fifth Course: Baker Claire Ptak – baker of the Royal Wedding Cake of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle
With Special guest Anna Echols of One Belle Bakery


“Sparkling Welcome” with a Marca Prosecco provided by Windham Distributing
*First Course: “All Things Southern” Salad – Braised pork cheeks, grits croutons, Candied Pecans, creamed goat cheese, pepper jelly vinaigrette by Chef James Patterson III / Corporate Executive Chef / McConnell Golf LLC
Wine 2018 Duck Hunter Sauvignon Blanc Sources by Windham Distributing
*Second Course: Salmon Rillettes – A chopped salmon pate’ with fresh and smoked salmon, shallots, fresh lemon, and chives. Served with a crisp baguette by Chef Steve Foote, Executive Chef LM Restaurants
Wine 2017 J Vineyard Pinot Gris Sourced by Winham Distributing
*Third Course: Coffee-rubbed beef loin with squash and rice pudding and a smoked Romesco sauce by Chef Matthew Register of Southern Smoke BBQ in Garland.
Wine 2016 Storypoint Cabernet Sauvignon Sourced by Windham Distributing
*Fourth Course: Pan-seared local grouper with sauce piquante, fresh shoepeg corn grits, cotton fried shallots, and chive oil by Chef William “Kelly” Robey, Executive Chef Hotel Ballast.
Wine 2015 Moulin De Gassac Pinot Noir Provided by the Hotel Ballast
*Fifth Course: Burnt Honey and Sea Salt Slice with Warm Chocolate Sauce – Chiffon cake flavored with burnt local honey baked into thin layers filled with a honey custard cream and served on a pool of salted caramel chocolate sauce sprinkled with local Wilmington sea salt by Clair Ptak, Violet Bakery.
Tea Lemon Souffle Sourced from Tama Tea

2019 Table Sponsorships are available through the Azalea Festival Ticket Office. 910-794-4650 or
Table Sponsorships include:
*8 Tickets to the Chefs’ Showcase at a designated table
*Entry for the 8 table guests to the private sponsor Meet and Greet with the Chefs (1 hour before event start time)
*2 Airlie Luncheon Garden Party tickets for the Table Host
Table Sponsorships are $1,000.


Enter our Savor California’s Wine Country Raffle for a chance to win a 5-day, 4-night vacation to Sonoma, California; inclusive of flight and hotel stay. Winner (1) will be pulled at random at the Chefs’ Showcase event. Need not be present to win.

Your trip for two includes:
• Round trip Economy Class air
• 5 days/4 nights accommodations at the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa in a king- or queen-bedded room
• Daily complimentary breakfast
• All room-related taxes
• Private 5-hour winery tour in a chauffeured luxury sedan
• Daily complimentary wine tastings in the hotel lobby
• Complimentary bottle of wine in room upon arrival
• Free concierge reservation service


Travel package is non-refundable and subject to availability. Certificates/gift cards cannot be replaced. Airport taxes and carrier-imposed fees are the responsibility of the passenger.
Flights may not be upgraded with miles. A minimum 30-day advance reservation is required. Package originates from the Contiguous U.S. Travel is valid for 12 months from date of
issue. Some restrictions may apply during special events. Blackout dates: Jun 24-25, Jul 15-17.


Chef James Patterson – Bold, imaginative, passionate…these are just a few words used to describe 42-year-old Corporate Executive Chef James (J.P.) Patterson’s cuisine with McConnell Golf Properties.  J.P.’s delectable dishes are a prime example of his tribute to our local wondrous bounty with an upscale twist, as displayed in dishes such as Cheerwine Glazed Pork Belly over Pimento Cheese Grits with Locally Sourced Microgreens and Crispy Fried Black Eye Peas.

One unusual trait found in all of J.P.’s cuisine is the ability to create a sense of elegance while keeping it simple. This is evident in many of his dishes such as his “Uptown Down-South Shrimp and Grits”, combining Coastal Carolina Shrimp sautéed with Tasso Ham, Shallots, and Fresh Cream over a Fried Cajun Anson Mills Grit Cake, garnished with Shaved Parmigiano. The menus at Sedgefield Country Club showcase J.P.’s culinary innovation.   Other signature dishes include Cast Iron Seared Scallops with Brown Sugar Whipped Sweet Potatoes, Crispy Bacon Lardon, Wilted Greens, and a Sorghum Reduction. Savory Sage Sausage and Cornbread Stuffed Joyce Farms Poulet Rouge accompanied by Duck Fat Glazed Roasted Fingerling Potatoes and Local Okra.

A native of Wilmington, North Carolina J.P. also graduated from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. He trained for nearly three years under the watchful eyes of Craig Deihl of Cypress and Donald Barickman of Hospitality Management Group Incorporated of Charleston S.C. After a short stint at Four Square(Durham, N.C.) with Shane Ingram, J.P. was Executive Chef of the Grille at Glen Lenox, and has been with McConnell Golf Properties now for over twelve years. J.P. lives in Greensboro, NC with his lovely wife, Toccoa, ten-year-old daughter Harriet and their boxer Lilly.

Chef Steve Foote – Chef Steven Foote is the Corporate Chef for LM Restaurants, a family-owned hospitality management group, which owns and operates seven award-winning Restaurant brands throughout the Southeast. Acting as the Corporate Chef, he provides inspiration, guidance and culinary expertise in menu creation across each of the restaurant concepts, which include the local Bluewater Waterfront Grill, Oceanic Restaurant, Hops Supply Co., Henry’s Restaurant and Bar and Carolina Ale House all located in Wilmington and Wrightsville Beach. He has been instrumental in the development of the Carolina Ale House menu development and leading the culinary teams to look at innovative recipes and flavor profiles.

Chef Foote previously held roles as Vice President of Culinary at McCormick & Schmick’s seafood restaurants, Executive Chef and Culinary Director at Bristol Seafood Grill in Kansas City and Executive Chef, Chequers Seafood Bar and Grill in Atlanta, GA.

Chef Matthew Register: Southern Smoke BBQ – Matthew Register and his wife Jessica opened Southern Smoke BBQ in 2014 in Garland, North Carolina, carrying on a family tradition of smoking pork the old-fashioned way – low and slow over an oak wood fire in their custom-designed smoker, “Jezebel.” Since, Register has become equally well known for his seasonal, Southern sides, elaborate feasts offered through South Catering, his South Supper Series and Southern Smoke BBQ food truck.

For years, Register has been obsessed with the history of southern recipes. Armed with a massive collection of cookbooks from the 1900s and overflowing boxes of recipe cards from his grandmother, Register has cooked his way through these timeworn classics and made them his own, sharing them alongside his North Carolina pulled pork and Memphis style pork ribs at Southern Smoke BBQ. Locals and tourists alike flock to his restaurant in Garland, North Carolina (population 700) for these old Southern dishes and wood-smoked barbecue. Register’s first cookbook will share the barbecue, sides and deep-rooted Southern food traditions he celebrates every day at Southern Smoke BBQ, as well as the time-honored stories that accompany so many Southern dishes.

In “Southern Smoke,” Matthew explores the dishes and foodways from iconic barbecue regions – North Carolina, the Lowcountry, Memphis, and the Delta – sharing anecdotes along the way about everything from Eastern versus Western-based BBQ sauce to the origins of Marigold Tomatoes in the Delta and pitmaster tricks-of-the-trade. Southern breads find a home here as well, including everything from skillet cornbread and benne seed biscuits to chocolate chess pie and pecan-studded bread pudding.

Chef William “Kelly” Robey – Chef William “Kelly” Robey started his professional career in culinary at the young age of 13 working for his grandfather’s restaurant in Clinton, NC. His passion for culinary grew over the years during apprenticed throughout the Raleigh area. Moving around and absorbing all the information that he could. His senior year of High School Chef Kelly assisted in putting together a career program that is still in use today. All of this while he was the Sous Chef at Cappers in North Raleigh under Chef Guy Brenamen. Soon after he attended Wake Tech and was part of the first graduating class of the new culinary program.

Throughout his career Chef Kelly has focused on Golf Club Resorts, 5 Diamond Hotels, and Casinos.  At Reynolds Plantation in Lake Oconee Georgia, Chef Kelly got his first big jump as Executive Sous Chef.  Where he spent 5 years at the resort building lasting memories for guest and members.  Chef Kelly Moved on to the newly built Ritz-Carlton lodge Reynolds Plantation. There he held multiple positions from Garde Manage to Fine Dining Chef art linger longer Club House. Chef Kelly wanted to experience bigger hotels and ended up in Lake Charles Louisiana. Where he worked for a large Casino property as Banquet Chef for 4 years.

From there it was another call from a new tribal casino being built in Michigan. So Kelly packed up his Family and moved North to the land of snow. Chef Kelly opened FireKeepers Casino as Banquet Chef and set the new standards for Banquets in the surrounding Southwest Michigan Area.   While at FireKeepers Chef Kelly worked closely with the Food Bank of Southwest Michigan and helped to create the fresh food initiative as well as a food reclamation program. The Tribe backed what was happening and even bought an old Firehouse to convert to a local inner-city restaurant and bakery, with a food pantry in the back. Chef Kelly sees that giving back to the community brings a community closer together.

Chef Kelly is currently relocating back to North Carolina to be closer to his roots. He has been married to his wife Neville for 24 years. He is a father of 3 great and awesome kids, Sydney 22, James 21 and Kelly jr. 14. His family will be joining him at the end of the school year.

Claire Ptak – A California native, Claire Ptak now resides in London where she is the chef/owner of Violet Bakery. Alongside baking, Claire works extensively as a food stylist and writer. Her fourth cookbook, ‘The Violet Bakery Cookbook’ was shortlisted for the Fortnum and Mason Best Cookery Book 2016. Claire regularly contributes to The Guardian and The Observer and her work has also been featured in Vogue, Bon Appetit, Observer Food Monthly, Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Tasting Table, Food52 and beyond. Claire is also the host of Violet Sessions, a podcast of inspiring interviews with creative female pioneers.

Prior to moving to London Claire worked as a pastry chef for Alice Waters at Chez Panisse. Most recently Claire was commissioned to make the Royal Wedding cake for Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, she created a bespoke cake installation for the couple using vanilla sponge, Amalfi lemon curd and elderflower Swiss meringue buttercream using Sandringham Estate’s elderflower cordial.

Claire is currently working on a new cookbook.

House menu development and leading the culinary teams to look at innovative recipes and flavor profiles.

Chef Foote previously held roles as Vice President of Culinary at McCormick & Schmick’s seafood restaurants, Executive Chef and Culinary Director at Bristol Seafood Grill in Kansas City and Executive Chef, Chequers Seafood Bar and Grill in Atlanta, GA.


Check out all the fun from the 2019 Chefs’ Showcase here:

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February 2, 2020
1:00 pm - 4:30 pm


Hotel Ballast
301 N Water St
Wilmington, NC 28401 United States