by LORRAINE EATON & JUDY COWLING
illustration by SAM HUNDLEY
A tectonic shift jolted Tidewater’s restaurant culture in 1979 when Monroe Duncan’s restaurant, Suddenly Last Summer, sprang to life.
Duncan was a chef who melded an avant-garde menu and open kitchen with wild antics, but it was the food that people couldn’t stop talking about.
Shortly after it opened, a local restaurant critic raved: “No broiled or fried platters, nothing ordinary. Every dish shows imagination and a concern for preparation.”
The place closed after five years, but more than a quarter century later it is widely credited with forever changing the local dining scene. Duncan died in June 2014; his influence endures.
“Monroe became a mentor to all of us along the way,” said Sam McGann, chef-owner of The Blue Point in Duck, one of the Outer Banks’ most respected restaurants. “His opinionated perspective on all things food kept us on our toes.”
McGann is part of a proud tradition of Tidewater chefs that grew out from Duncan’s influence, a group that includes Sydney Meers, a 2016 James Beard semifinalist and the owner of Stove in Portsmouth; Amy Brandt, who has a custom catering business on the Eastern Shore; and Willie Moats, former owner of Timbuktu and now executive chef at Harbor’s Edge retirement community in Norfolk.
That group of chefs now influences another new generation as Tidewater’s culinary network continues to expand, proving you can never have too many good chefs. Never Too Many Cooks In The Kitchen