Culinary Team 2017-06-29T17:07:13+00:00

Culinary Team

CREATIVE. INSPIRED. UNIQUE.

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Executive Chef Jessica Cabo

Chef Jessica Cabo’s love of food began in her native Long Island, New York. Her family’s reverence for diverse ethnic dishes created the foundation of her “produce obsessed” vegetarian and seafood-centric menus. Cabo shops local, employs healthful cooking strategies, and utilizes select items grown in the Blockade Runner gardens. She arrived in Wilmington, North Carolina in 1996 to attend UNCW. After college, she relocated to Venice Beach, California. Employed as a headhunter by day, by night, Cabo cooked. Gourmet meals for her friends lead to catering some rather eclectic affairs, where a lifetime of cultural influences impacted her style.

Cabo exploded onto the national cooking scene when she won a spot on the 1st season of Hell’s Kitchen. She made it into the final three despite having no formal training and never attending cooking school. Returning to North Carolina in 2012, Cabo spent the next four years as Executive Chef at CAM Cafe, the eatery at Louise Wells Cameron Art Museum. She joined the Blockade Runner team in the spring of 2016. Flavors from California, Mexico, Asia and the Mediterranean are seen in her presentations. “Map these countries on the globe, and map the places I’ve lived. You’ll see that all of them sort of line up along the 30th parallel. Not sure what that means, but it’s something to think about.” The Blockade Runner Resort in Wrightsville Beach falls right in her “zone”.

 

Sous Chef Fenix Nelson

California native Fenix Nelson got his start in the kitchen cooking at brick oven style pizza places in Seattle. Hailing from the small coastal paradise of San Luis Obispo, California, Nelson grew up in the restaurant industry; his dad was a Chef and his mom was a Server and Bartender. Their love of making things for other people inspires him to this day.

Nelson moved from the west coast to Chapel Hill with his native North Carolinian girlfriend where he got his start at the Southern Rail, a center of the Carrboro music scene, and Duke University’s Nasher Art museum. In 2009, Nelson could stand to be away from the ocean no longer, and moved to Wilmington, North Carolina. His love of film lead him to an apartment in the building where David Lynch shot his cult classic, Blue Velvet. Nelson has worked at many local favorites on the Wilmington dining scene including Catch, Mixto, and a collaboration with Keith Rhodes at Phun, a Southeast Asian tapas seafood bar.

Nelson joined the team at the Blockade Runner in the spring of 2016. He is inspired by walking outside, the way the clouds and ocean look, and the smell of the air.

Director of Food & Beverage Robert Astraikis

Robert Astraikis joined the team at EAST Oceanfront Dining in July of 2015. Transplanted to North Carolina from New York at the age of 12, he first worked at the Blockade Runner in the summer of 1991, as a line cook. Mr. Astraikis went back to New York to study at the Culinary Institute of America and upon graduation returned to pave a career in the state where he got his start. At Landfall Country Club, he cooked his way up from the line to Executive Chef and Food & Beverage Director. After Landfall, he worked with the Circa Group for four years as the Corporate Chef. From there he traveled just South to the mouth of the Cape Fear River, taking on St. James Plantation in Southport, where he was Director of Food & Beverage for the entire facility for seven and a half years. Mr. Astraikis loves the restaurant industry because he likes to build teams and he likes problem solving. He is drawn to jobs in the one-of-a-kind and romantic places that provide a different experience every day.

For fun, Mr. Astraikis hikes. If he’s not at the Blockade Runner, he’s out walking somewhere. According to him, the best hiking in this area is Raven Rock State Park in Lillington, NC, right on the Cape Fear River. It’s the closest place where they actually have a hill. For flat hiking, the Neusiok Trail in the Croatan National Forest is a fun winter hike, although, beware in the summer, lots of snakes and mosquitoes, as it’s a trail that goes through a heavily swamped area. His favorite place to hike in North Carolina is Linville Gorge.

When he eats out, he eats Indian. Indian is his favorite type of food.

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