Chef Jill Thompson

Jill Thompson Coastal Sols

A Roanoke Sound sailing adventure aboard the Pelican is a seafood experience you’ll never forget. That’s because vessel chef Jill Thompson sources fish and shellfish from Outer Banks commercial fishers.

“Ninety percent of my menu is fresh, in-season and sourced within 50 miles of our location. A good portion of our menu is seafood because it is the freshest source of protein on the Outer Banks,” Thompson said.

The chef shops for seafood from Fresh Catch and O'Neal's Sea Harvest, both in Wanchese. “Their staff have become like family to me,” Thompson said.

Growing up in Annapolis, Md., surrounded by watermen, Thompson developed a deep appreciation for coastal communities. She attended University of North Carolina-Wilmington and went on to work as a chef on sailing catamarans all over the world. The NC Catch Chef Ambassador shared her story with us.

Tell us about adventures aboard SV Pelican.

My husband and I own and operate a sailing cruise business called Coastal Sols and offer day and sunset sails as well as sunset sails and coast-to-table dinners at anchor. This dinner sail offering includes a three-course locally sourced menu that changes with the seasons.

How did you start cooking?

My culinary experience began on sailing catamarans in the Virgin Islands. In order to find a way out of the corporate world in Washington D.C. in 2016, my boyfriend and I at the time purchased a sailboat and became liveaboards at a marina in the Chesapeake Bay. We learned to love the art of simpler, quieter living completely immersed in nature. In 2017, a friend reached out to us with a job offer in the Virgin Islands working as a captain and chef team.

I had always been interested in cooking, but this job is what really kick-started my career — diving in headfirst. I was responsible for not only being a first mate, making beds, cleaning heads, menu planning, provisioning, leading dives, hikes, but also, cooking six meals a day for a group of eight to12 people that would join us every week. As if the pressure was not enough, every year from 2017 to 2021 we had opportunities to work on larger, more expensive sailing yachts, increasing the pressure to develop more daily courses and elegant dishes on board.

Coastal Sols Sv Pelican 

Chef Jill Thompson cooks about SV Pelican, a vessel operated by Coastal Sols.

Every off-season — hurricane months — my husband and I had two months off to travel and visit family. While traveling, I would seek inspiration. I attended one week at a farm-to-table culinary school in Ashburton, UK. I took flavor-profile notes during travels in Iceland, Portugal, The Azores, Southern California, Baja, Mainland Mexico, and on road trips on our home soil. The only time I have ever worked in a kitchen on land was at the Greyfield Inn on Cumberland Island in Georgia for a couple of weeks. Another source of knowledge comes from cookbooks. You should see my library these days! I love learning from fellow chefs.

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Fig-leaf-wrapped fish, whatever is fresh at the Outer Banks docks, in sherry cream sauce by Chef Jill Thompson of Coastal Sols.  

During Covid (pandemic), my husband and I lived and worked on a private 77-foot sailing catamaran on the West coast that moved a lot. During those years, I yearned for community, and I found that in local markets. I love learning about an area through their food. Even before arriving at a new port, I would be doing research to find the local farmers and fish markets. I became so good at it, that when we moved to the Outer Banks (in 2022), it did not take long to find my people.

Describe a dish you’ve created using North Carolina seafood.

A Coastal Carolina lump crab and shrimp roll — a spin off the northern lobster roll: local crab-shrimp cake, served over a slice of homemade garlic dill focaccia, coriander cucumber relish, fresh lemon, micro-greens.

What is your favorite N.C. seafood to work with?

Green-tail shrimp! It is something so unique to our home, the Outer Banks.

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Shrimp and Grits Etouffee by Chef Jill Thompson of Coastal Sols.

Do you have a “signature dish” that includes N.C. seafood?

Here are two of my favorites: 
  • Shrimp and grits etouffee, gouda grit cake, fried okra, chili lime aioli, radish micro-greens. 
  • Fig leaf wrapped fish (whatever is coming in), fig walnut plus herb salsa, sherry coconut cream sauce, basmati rice. The fig leaf gives the fish a slightly sweet vanilla flavor

What are your thoughts on N.C. seafood and the state’s seafood industry in general?

The one thing I believe in is the importance of knowing where our food comes from and supporting the local seafood industry.

Follow Thompson on Instagram.

Follow Coastal Sols on Instagram.

Events

18
Apr

Fish Harvest Reporting

11:00am - 11:45am

Web conference

22
May