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Shark on the Harbor chef Travis Wright dies at 45; wife plans to keep restaurant open

Chef Travis Wright, owner of The Shark on the Harbor restaurant in Ocean City, died on Sunday.
Chef Travis Wright, owner of The Shark on the Harbor restaurant in Ocean City, died on Sunday.

Chef Travis Wright died Aug. 18 at his home in Ocean City, Maryland. He was 45.

“Travis played a huge role in changing the game not just in Ocean City, but in the region,” friend and fellow chef Chad Wells wrote online. “I am so thankful for his important contributions to our food community and I am at an absolute loss for words. Our culinary world lost a superstar and even more so, the world lost an awesome person.”

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Born in Arlington, Virginia, to Gary J., a software engineer, and Cheryl Wright, an educator, Mr. Wright grew up spending summers in Ocean City. It was there that he would later open a restaurant, The Shark on the Harbor, which he ran for nearly two decades with his wife, Jody Kelly Wright.

“We met in 2000 when he was first coming to this area,” said Mrs. Wright, who was working in marketing at the time. “We just decided that we would make a good team.”

The couple enjoyed attending concerts together ⁠— Mr. Wright had played drums in a band while in high school ⁠— and traveling to places like Belize when they could. Food was always a starring part of vacations. “We did a lot of looking for great food and enjoying great food," Mrs. Wright said.

The menu at The Shark on the Harbor changed daily according to what was in season. Mr. Wright told a Baltimore Sun reporter this summer that he worked seven days a week, and was frequently on the phone with watermen and seafood purveyors to discuss the day’s catch. Boats delivered fresh seafood to the dock below the restaurant’s waterfront location, where it moved in 2008.

“It’s really hard,” Mr. Wright said, asked why his local-first, farm-to-table approach didn’t have more imitators in the area. “It’s much easier to write a menu [that doesn’t change for six months] than trying to do this on the fly every night. It takes recruiting and retaining really talented staff.”

Mrs. Wright said she intends to keep the restaurant open with the current kitchen staff. “I’m committed to doing whatever I need to do to keep our team intact,” she said. “I will make sure we … we continue to make him proud,” she said.

In addition to his wife, he is survived by a sister, Carly Jill Wright of Alexandria, Virginia.

The cause of death was suicide.

A celebration of his life is planned for 4 p.m. on Sept. 4 at The Shark on the Harbor.

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