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Chefs bring big flavor to local restaurants

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Associate Manager Darrell Brown tops sweet potato cornbread with smoked pulled pork Thursday for the First Ever 2017 Chamber Cook-off presented by Coastal Credit Union at Coastal Credit Union.

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BY COREY DAVIS
Staff Writer

Saturday, December 16, 2017

A local credit union bank held a food tasting contest Thursday.

The Coastal Credit Union in Rocky Mount was the venue for the first-time Rocky Mount Area Chamber of Commerce’s 2017 Cook-off. The event featured locally-owned restaurants, Spicy Pickle and Washington Street Grille, along with franchise restaurant Outback Steakhouse and the DoubleTree by Hilton hotel.

People at the event were able to taste appetizers and desserts from local chefs and write down on a card their choice for best restaurant food and dessert.  

Shane Lancaster, community engagement officer for Coastal Credit Union in Rocky Mount, who spearheaded the event, said the bank was really looking at getting more active in the Chamber this year. He said this was a unique and fun event to do in the community.

“I was looking for ways to promote our business community by doing something different,” Lancaster said. “We wanted to show how Coastal emphasizes those connections, and the Chamber is all about connections. We really wanted to do this to highlight some of the restaurants in the area and give those restaurants a chance to showcase themselves.”

David Farris, president and CEO of the Chamber, said the event was a perfect addition to the holiday season.

“We were so delighted to partner with Coastal with their chef challenge,” Farris said. “The food by the restaurants were absolutely amazing, and we were pleased with the turnout.”

Washington Street Grille owner Robert McBride said the restaurant jumped at the opportunity to showcase its food to people that still may not be familiar with the restaurant that opened this past summer at 119 N. Washington St. in downtown Rocky Mount near Edgecombe Community College.

McBride said some of the food that was sampled included the restaurant’s homemade sweet potato cheesecake with molasses butter.

“We appreciate the opportunity by the Chamber and the bank for the exposure to show what we offer in the community,” McBride said. “Hopefully, this experience will allow us to gain more customers. We feel that business is going in the right direction. With us being a young business, it’s going to take time for people to know about you, but we’re starting to get more known by the public.”

Sharif Elsayed, owner of the Spicy Pickle Restaurant & Bar, came out to participate in the event, along with a couple of his employees.  After a few months in operation at the Shoppes at Stoney Creek on Zebulon Road, Elsayed said, he decided to close shop for a few months to revamp the restaurant to add more seating and change the menu.

“With this being a new experience for me, I came in blind and I knew that I needed to change some things,” Elsayed said. “I took some things off the menu and added some things on the menu. I added some ribs, cheesesteaks, barbecue, chicken salad, pickle fries and other items to bring more of that southern twang to the restaurant. The regulars that came before have come back, while the people that came and had a bad experience, we’re hoping they will give us a chance.”

Elsayed said he plans to open his new restaurant next week. The Chopped Panini will be located at 3665 Sunset Ave. in the Westridge Shopping Center near Harris Teeter. 

Elsayed said the restaurant will offer paninis, crepes, gourmet sandwiches, vegan food, vegetarian selections, gluten free food and more and will employ 20 workers.

“We’re going to provide some things in Rocky Mount that it doesn’t have,” Elsayed said.

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