Last month, the North Carolina SweetPotato Commission (NCSPC) celebrated its long-awaited Eat Sweet Restaurant Week where it invited chefs across the state to “cook” up creative ways to elevate the sweetpotato. The state is responsible for more than 67 percent of the US sweetpotato crop.
Made possible in part through a grant from the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (NCDA & CS), the event sought to raise awareness of the importance of supporting local businesses and particularly those small businesses associated with food and beverage, as well as raise awareness of the NC Sweetpotato, mainly its versatility in how it can be enjoyed.
The event was scheduled ahead of the holiday season and served as a reminder that the state’s superfood doesn’t need marshmallows on top nor does it need to be reserved for special holiday occasions.
“We were hoping to not only help support our state’s independent restaurants but to also raise awareness for our favorite vegetable with the aid of our North Carolina chefs and they delivered!” said Michelle Grainger, executive director of the NCSPC. “We saw everything from sweetpotato pie lattes to smoothies, beers and cocktails, not to mention soups, salads, tacos, hummus, risottos, BBQ Sauce, curries and so much more.”
In the end, the promotion captured participation from 29 different restaurants, with some of them participating with multiple locations for a total of 37 different brick and mortar establishments.
Besides showcasing chef artistry and creativity, the promotion also encouraged friendly competition among restaurants. The NCSPC offered United Restaurant Supply gift cards totaling $2,050 to the top five restaurants which promoted restaurant week and encouraged customers to dine at their restaurants through the usage of social media. In the end, the winning restaurants truly represented the culinary diversity of the state and are as follows:
- Spoon River, Belhaven
- Sassool, Raleigh
- Larema Coffee, Rocky Mount & Wilson
- Asali, Cary
- Seabird, Wilmington
“Beautiful product makes beautiful food – and North Carolina has some of the best agriculture,” said Teresa Vanstaalduinen, owner and operator of first place winning restaurant, Spoon River. “I have been very much educated on the incredible versatility of sweetpotatoes.”
Due to the success of the promotion, the NCSPC hopes to bring it back in the future with an even larger number of participating restaurants.