Catherine Rabb was a chef with a passion for making no fuss food that tasted good; a teacher who made learning fun, easy and interesting; a sommelier who had forgotten more about wine than most of us will ever know; and most importantly to me, a person I am proud to have called a friend.
Catherine lost a year long battle with cancer on Dec 8, 2021. Her sudden absence has hit hard. Today, as I write this we are thinking of her husband Don Rabb, their family and all of Catherine’s close friends, colleagues and students.
I haven’t seen Catherine in person since she started dealing with the disease, nearly a year or so ago. COVID and quarantine, don’t you know. But we’ve chatted back and forth by text and her take on all she was dealing with was much like her take on about everything I’ve ever talked with her about – always hopeful and upbeat. She will be missed.
Catherine’s Enthusiasm was Always Contagious
I’ve known Catherine and Don since 1984 when they first opened Fenwick’s, a restaurant in Charlotte NC that continues to be the same charming little neighborhood spot it started out to be all those years ago.
Fenwick’s is obviously closed for the next little bit while the family and staff mourn this tremendous loss.
Catherine loved her work, the restaurant and the Fenwick’s family of staff and customers, alike. Her enthusiasm for all she did and for the work and accomplishments of others was contagious.
She’s taught a good segment of Charlotte restaurant community during her time as an instructor at Johnson & Wales. While Catherine Rabb was never one to toot her own horn, she was a cheerleader for everyone around her. She was constantly promoting the work of friends, family and colleagues all along the way, yours truly included.
I’ve written about Fenwicks and talked about the restaurant on TV many times. And, Tom and I have eaten at Fenwick’s over the years more times than I can possibly count. This photo, another by Charlotte photographer Peter Taylor, is the view of the open kitchen. It is what you see when you sit at the end of the restaurant’s small 5-6 seat bar.
We always loved the happy surprise of finding Catherine at the grill as we nestled into bar seats for dinner. This shot is so typical of her when she was at the restaurant. At the grill moving at the speed of light. Working orders, cooking and plating every delicious bite for her family of happy Fenwick’s customers.
Catherine Rabb quietly shined at Appearances and Events
Catherine was an incredible teacher. She wrote about wine and food, talked about both on television and in seminars and helped to shape chefs of tomorrow. In 2019 the two of us had the opportunity to work together teaching ProStart bootcamp classes for high schoolers interested in a culinary career – I think we had as much fun as the students did.
While she sometimes shied away from being in the spotlight, opting instead to work behind the scenes, she often encouraged and made opportunities for others to step in front and center.
I loved working with her always; and was delighted that she thought of me when she was looking for a speaker at a conference she hosted on Women in the Hospitality Industry at Johnson & Wales in 2015.
I asked her to share her talent and discriminating palate on several occasions as a regional and mixology judge at annual NCRLA Chef Showdown events I coordinate, and she was always quick to say yes. She championed students and competing chefs, alike, to always bring their best to the table.
Raising a Glass in Remembrance
Each and every time Catherine and I would run into each other it was as if no time had passed. In fact, in the year or two before COVID, our paths often crossed in the television studios at WCNC where I would be appearing to do a restaurant or travel piece and she would be doing the cooking segment. Watch Catherine make Fenwick’s Banana Foster French Toast here.
Other times, I would be cooking and Catherine would be in the studio with her friend and colleague Sarah Malik talking about wine. You can watch a 2018 wine presentation these two did on Charlotte Today here. If you didn’t know Catherine or haven’t ever had the opportunity to be with her in the classroom, then you can experience her fun, easy going teaching style and food and wine loving personality here. She will be missed.
I remember well, how once in presenting a series of wines for the show, she talked for a while about fun sparkling options. Her suggestion to viewers was if you had something to celebrate, it was best done with bubbles.
As Tom and I remember and celebrate our sweet friend today, and in the weeks and months ahead, we will take her advice and raise a glass of something sparkling to say…
Cheers to you, Catherine Rabb.