By Mary Ellen Riddle. From OuterBanksVoice.com
Sharon Peele Kennedy had a homespun way of charming her audiences. Whether talking with folks attending her cooking demonstrations or sitting around her kitchen table, the Hatteras Island native shared recipes and stories of yesteryear. In life, she demonstrated warmth and a strong social conscience.
The Buxton woman passed away Jan. 26 after a battle with cancer. She leaves behind a legacy of supporting Outer Banks fisheries and sharing her heart-warming personality through friendships, her writing and cooking. She was known for her local radio fishing report and subsequent radio show, “What’s for Supper with Sharon Peele Kennedy,” sponsored by the North Carolina Department of Agriculture.
Through these efforts, Kennedy gained an audience and in time, published her cookbook What’s for Supper that’s seen multiple editions and is a staple in this writer’s household. The cookbook is appreciated not only for its recipes but for its simplicity and local origin.
Kennedy was the daughter of a commercial fisherman and grew up eating only fish, fowl, or food from the garden.
Her love of seafood cooking was nurtured at an early age. Keeping recipes simple was something her father Maxton Peele passed down to her because he believed that when you have seafood right off the boat, you have everything you need. So, the seasonings were simple. It was all about salt or salt pork and pepper and olive oil for the woman who went on to become a cooking icon on the Outer Banks.
Kennedy did cooking demonstrations at seafood festivals and at the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum in Hatteras and at Farm Aid. Audiences were enthralled by her knowledge and authenticity, and, of course, the delicious result.
They relished her seafood stews, in particular. She set up her hot plate and big soup pot and chatted with guests while cooking, helping visitors to the Outer Banks not only feel at home but have an authentic taste of old-time Hatteras cooking. Never knowing in advance how many guests would show up, somehow Kennedy always cooked enough for everyone to have more than a spoonful.
Cooking for people was a way of life for Kennedy.
As a teen, she got her feet wet at a local restaurant where she trained as a kitchen cook. She segued into becoming a private cook and eventually ran a bed and breakfast. She is known for her shrimp burger that she created while cooking at Hatteras Harbor Marina.
Kennedy was knowledgeable about the fishing industry and co-founded Outer Banks Catch, a non-profit advocacy group that helps the local fishing community through promotion and encourages supporting the economy by purchasing local seafood. She also was a supporter of the Outer Banks Seafood Festival and was on the board of directors for NC Catch that works with local advocacy groups through education and promotion.
Kennedy went from humble beginnings to being a well-known local and state warrior, never losing a speck of her humility and down-home personality. She found common ground and brought people together by asking “What’s for Supper?”