Many of you may recognize Chad Blackwelder from our Stove Side Chat series on Instagram each Wednesday at 2 p.m. Chad, however, is responsible for a variety of tasks and projects in his role as Food Service Marketing Specialist at the department, and his extensive background in the culinary world helps him better assists farmers, chefs and other ag industry professionals on a daily basis.
In 1992, Chad graduated from Johnson and Wales University in Charleston with a culinary degree. “Cooking was something that came very natural to me once I started in my teens and I truly enjoyed it,” he said, “it’s almost like I have a photographic memory when it comes to food and recipes – but only food and recipes!” After graduation, Chad worked for a variety of restaurants and even had the honor of cooking at the James Beard House twice, which is a huge honor for a chef, and participated in the North Carolina Restaurant & Lodging Association‘s Chef Showdown competition. “I started my career as sous chef at Pinehurst Country Club where I learned a lot about how to manage people as well as build a menu,” he said, “then after I worked for a variety of other highly renowned chefs, including Louis Osteen and Ben & Karen Barker, my brother and I owned and operated one restaurant before I went on to own three more.” Although both brothers have since taken on jobs with the state, Chad looks back on his time as a chef with pride. “I enjoyed putting a culinary puzzle together, making my creativity bankable and seeing smiles on the faces of my customers as they enjoyed the food,” he said, “but I also love my job at the department and I am grateful for how my experience as a chef prepared me for where I am now.”
Chad started with the department in 2017 where he serves as food service marketing specialist. A typical day for Chad depends on the time of year, but often involves meeting with Got To Be N.C. members and preparing for events such as the NRA show, Cooking for the Troops and the Chow Chow Festival. “Although many things are still up in the air this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are working each day with the hope that these events will move forward,” he said, “in fact, this year I am even working on a chef field trip where I will be taking a group of chefs down to the coast to learn about local fishing and farms in the area, including Tidewater Grain Company.” Chad enjoys being on the other side of the table and making the connection between farmers and chefs to help promote buying and eating local. “Having food service experience gives me a unique angle when making connections between farmers, specialty product producers, chefs and wholesalers,” Chad said, “it almost gives me street cred in a sense because I speak their language.” In fact, in 2020, Chad started bringing his unique perspective on food and eating local straight to the public through his weekly Stove Side Chat series, featured on the gottobenc Instagram.
Wednesday’s at 2 p.m., Chad Blackwelder hosts a chef on Instagram Live to talk about their restaurant, culinary inspirations and more. Recent features have included Chef Ricky Moore with Saltbox Seafood Joint, Ann Marie Thornton with James Creek Cider House and Ann Gassenheimer with Vegetable Kingdom. “The idea for Stove Side Chats came through another member of our marketing team, but I immediately loved it because not only does it give me the opportunity to connect with chefs across the state, but it also gives them the opportunity to get in front of a new audience,” Chad said. This year on the series, people can expect to see more farmers and specialty product producers being featured in addition to chefs. “Anyone who would like to be a part of this series can reach out to me via email at email@example.com and I will be happy to connect with them,” he said, “it is an honor to be a part of something that others admire and want to be involved in.” Be sure to tune into the series in the upcoming weeks and continue to show your support for these influential culinary leaders.
Despite the challenges, Chad truly enjoys his job at the department because he gets to work with a variety of individuals across our state. “North Carolina is one of the greatest states and home to some of the most hard-working, amazing individuals,” he said, “getting to hear their stories, and even better help promote them, is an honor.”
In his free time, you can find Chad stretching his culinary muscles by cooking dinner for his family. “I do all the cooking at home,” he said, “it gives me the opportunity to continue expressing my culinary creativity and trying out new dishes on my friends and family.” When he isn’t in the kitchen or meeting with agriculture producers, you can find Chad brushing up on his drawing skills or watching a horror movie with his wife, Michelle.