Wilmington, NC: The Wilmington and Beaches Convention & Visitors Bureau [CVB] is pleased to announce the winners of the 2023 Tourism Star and Tourism Legacy awards. Kim Hufham, President/CEO of the New Hanover County Tourism Development Authority [TDA] d/b/a Wilmington and Beaches CVB, presented the awards during the organization’s annual travel rally breakfast and celebration, held during National Travel and Tourism Week on Wednesday, May 10 at the Wilmington Convention Center.

“Each year during our annual Travel Rally celebration, the Wilmington and Beaches CVB celebrates the travel industry and salutes local tourism employees. We are deeply grateful for all that our dedicated industry partners do on a daily basis to make Wilmington and our island beaches the best of the Carolina coast,” states Kim Hufham. “We are honored to recognize two industry professionals who demonstrate exceptional commitment, enthusiasm, vision and leadership. 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.”

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. This year’s Tourism Star award winner, Ali Clark, 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. This year’s Jane Peterson Tourism Legacy Award winner is Chef Keith Rhodes, an Eastern North Carolina native who 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, Chef 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. 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. Accolades include Best Chef & Best Foodtruck (4 years in a row) by Encore Magazine and N.C. Goodness Grows’ Best Dish for Fine & Casual Dining. Most recently, Chef 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.

Inspired by his grandfather’s farm-to-table style of cooking, Chef Rhodes was one of Wilmington’s first chefs to embrace the sustainable restaurant movement by using locally harvested seafood, organic produce and vibrant herbs to craft extraordinary fresh culinary creations. He gives back by sharing knowledge on food culture, local cuisine, food deserts, sustainable policies and food advocacy with local schools, military bases and civic groups. Beyond his roles as a top chef, food and travel influencer, sustainability advocate and tourism ambassador, 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.

The New Hanover County Tourism Development Authority (TDA), d/b/a Wilmington and Beaches Convention & Visitors Bureau, markets and develops the county and its communities’ leisure and group travel experiences for economic growth and quality of place.


Connie Nelson
Communications/Public Relations Director
Wilmington and Beaches CVB
910-341-4030 x120