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What's Up Magazine

2012 Eastern Shore People to Watch

Jan 15, 2012 06:10PM ● By Anonymous
Call them risky, visionaries, or any other word that conjures spirit and drive, but make no mistake, this class of People to Watch (each is under 40 years of age) has gusto and a passion to lead their communities. They're hoping to make each little spring flourish into, perhaps, something bigger and better for all on the Shore. Enjoy meeting our finest five of the Shore’s next generation.

Patrick Fanning
Chef/Owner of The High Spot, 36

At midnight—the tail end of a typically long workday—Patrick Fanning locks the doors of The High Spot in Cambridge, bidding the restaurant adieu... and looks forward to starting his routine all over again in about six hours. The routine, as owner and chef of the revamped High Spot, includes: checking reports from the night before; starting soups and stocks for the day; writing daily specials; setting up daily social media; working with local vendors and purveyors; preparing menus for upcoming events; cooking the line at noon for lunch rush; preparing evening specials and soups; writing schedules; meeting with local businesses about improving downtown Cambridge business; working with accountant and partner on restaurant books; cooking dinner rush; evening accounting; and finally, closing those doors. It’s all a day in the life for Fanning, whose vision and culinary finesse transformed the aging High Spot into an elite gastro pub that has the town of Cambridge buzzing since its reopening in August last year. Fanning, who grew up in D.C., graduated with a Bachelors of Culinary Arts from the Western Culinary Institute in Portland, Oregon, before returning to the capital to cook under renowned chef Morou Quattara of Red Sage. “He taught more in one year of service than I had learned previously in all my travels and culinary school,” says Fanning. “I attempt to live up to his standard and teachings.” Fanning once cooked for famed chef Jacques Pepin, another huge influence for the 36-year-old who aspires to “make the High Spot the best possible restaurant that I can and make it a restaurant that Cambridge deserves.” That's not all. Fanning envisions much more for the Shore’s culinary industry and embraces the “farm to table” movement by producing a public access television show in which he visits local farms, hand picks the food, and prepares elegant meals. “I love teaching people about food and the reason that chefs prepare it certain ways to affect the flavor of the dish,” says Fanning, who would also “love to own my own brewpub in downtown Cambridge and, hopefully, a goat creamery, where we would make fresh goat cheese and milk.”

Marie Thomas
Communications Manager of Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, 28

When she was 10-years-old, Marie Mohan (her maiden name) recalls making her own, family newspaper, The Mohan Daily News—typing articles on a word processor and pasting them into a scrapbook around photographs—covering “very important news; mostly about our dogs, the weather, and a column called ‘Family Updates’,” she recalls. Nearly 20 years later, Thomas (who recently celebrated her seventh wedding anniversary with husband Steve, a native of Wales), is still spreading the word—now for the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum in St. Michaels as communications manager. She is largely responsible for the organization’s quarterly publication The Chesapeake Log, serving as editor and creative director, and regularly educates the public and private sectors about museum and Bay-related news and events. It’s a role that’s familiar territory for her (prior to CBMM she served as interim managing editor of What’s Up? Eastern Shore magazine), but also one that regularly presents challenges and opportunities. “I’ve always known that I wanted to work at a nonprofit and contribute to something for the greater good. Here at the museum, I’m not just helping to preserve artifacts; I’m helping to preserve the stories of the Chesapeake,” says Thomas, who’s also on the Board of the Hugh Gregory Gallagher Motivational Theatre, whose goal is to raise public awareness of disability issues through the power of theater. “Motivational Theatre seeks to encourage acceptance of those who are different, a cause that is near and dear to my heart,” she says. Thomas’ older brother, Patrick, was born intellectually disabled and was often misdiagnosed before the Mohan family (mom, dad, three sisters, and brother Patrick) found the Benedictine School for exceptional children in Ridgely. There he thrived and so too would the family in Easton. Thomas is a community-minded individual who sees and informs others about the value of the collective good. “Community means knowing that you can count on other people in a time of need,” she says. “I always thought, when I was a teenager growing up in rural Talbot County, that I couldn’t wait to get out this small town. But everyone always comes back because it is a great place to live.”

Jon Cook
Co-founder of Blackwater Distilling, 33

It’s easy to say that entrepreneur Jon Cook has a thirst for life—the 33-year-old recently co-founded the Eastern Shore’s first licensed craft distillery of fine liquors, Blackwater Distilling, in nearly 30 years. But Cook’s “thirst” is more aptly described as a passion to recognize a challenge, develop a business plan, and grow a niche market. Though the Washington College grad (Class of 2000) maintains a day job with the government, he’s able to manage the many obligations a successful start-up requires, along with co-founder Chris Cook (his brother) and business partner Mark Troxler. Incorporating in 2008, two years later the duo introduced their flagship line, Sloop Betty vodka, at select vendors in Maryland, Delaware, and Washington, D.C. Jon, who’s married and lives in Queen Anne’s County, says he would like to grow Blackwater Distilling into a successful, regional distillery producing a suite of critically-acclaimed products. “I’m excited at the possibility of growing this business on the short term—if near term goals are accomplished we will be looking into expanding the product line and doing some really exciting stuff with whiskey, rum, and gin. Making spirits can be a great creative outlet, especially when you begin to consider spirit and cocktail pairings with food, as well as seasonal spirit releases.” Cook also believes that giving back to the nonprofit community is a key to success. Blackwater Distilling has a relationship with Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge and participates regularly with local charities, supporting events. “If you think of your relationships as concentric circles,” he says, “Community comes after family and friends, but it should be an extension of that, and where I live right now, I really feel that it is.”

Jayme Weeg
President of Junior Achievement of the Eastern Shore, 32

Striving to achieve; reaching one’s potential—these are the mantras of a go-getter who’s traveled many paths to achieve her destiny, and helps others find their own. This is Jayme Weeg, a constant presence in Eastern Shore school classrooms as leader of Junior Achievement (JA), which offers “K–12 programs that foster work-readiness, entrepreneurship and financial literacy skills, and use of experiential learning to inspire kids to dream big and reach their potential,” says JA’s mission. Becoming President of JA of the Eastern Shore was one destination among many journeys for Weeg, who grew up in a military family and has lived worldwide. She attended Salisbury University (SU), graduating in 2001, and worked as a personal trainer for several years. Weeg then co-founded two meal-planning companies before the economy forced her to rethink the businesses and pursue another endeavor. That other endeavor became the Junior Achievement organization. “There was never a moment where I thought I wouldn’t or couldn’t be successful,” says Weeg, who carries that motivation into classrooms throughout the Shore. “I call myself JAyme and tell everyone my mom named me that because this is what I was meant to do. I love our mission and truly believe in the boundless potential of young people.” Having a heavy hand in shaping students’ aspirations and goals, Weeg has joined several other groups as a committee member/advisor, including the Career Advisory Board for SU, the Dorchester Superintendent’s Advisory Board, Young Professionals, Workforce Development Committee for Salisbury’s Chamber, Youth Development Council, and the [Salisbury] Mayor’s Roundtable. “I wake up every day thinking how can I contribute to my community, society, or anyone around me?” says Weeg. “Your community is only as good as you make it…you’d be surprised when you help others how much it helps you.”

Call Me Mercy
Rock Band, early-20s

In the past several years, the music scene on the Shore has blossomed into something of a hotbed for homegrown, original rock ‘n’ roll—recent examples being Kentavius Jones and Jayme Ploff, both featured in past issues of What’s Up? Eastern Shore as People to Watch. Three-piece ethereal rockers from the Mid-Shore, Call Me Mercy, join the club. Their organic sound, laced with melodic guitar, vocal effects, and pulsating rhythm has an edge that harks back to the likes of Velvet Underground and U2, but with the exotic exploration of contemporary big names such as Brand New and The Killers. “Collectively, we are able to produce music that speaks from our hearts, music that represents our deepest feelings, fears, and ambitions,” says guitarist/vocalist Sam Pugh, founding member of the band along with bassist Matt McCreary. Call Me Mercy began as a duo just one year ago while the members, who now includes drummer Anthony Graves, were fresh out of high school. “We knew that this was a band with great potential,” says Pugh. “Our first show in February of last year was held at NightCat in Easton. We mastered ten original songs and a few covers to put on a very successful performance.” Call Me Mercy has also performed at the Stoltz Listening Room at the Avalon Theatre and plans to tour the East Coast when their debut EP drops in several months. Upon first listen, this is a band that impresses and having been born and raised on the Shore, gives us all the more reason to root for their success. “We love the community around us because it is made up of our biggest fans and without them, our music would have no drive,” says Pugh. “We’ve all been working hard towards making this band a success. So far our efforts seem to be paying off.”