NC SweetPotato Commission Eat Sweet Restaurant Week a Success

Benson, N.C. – Last month, the North Carolina SweetPotato Commission (NCSPC) celebrated its long-awaited Eat Sweet Restaurant Week where they invited chefs across the state to “cook” up creative ways to elevate the State’s vegetable, the sweetpotato – the state is responsible for over 67% 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. Many foodservice establishments suffered through pandemic lockdowns and the NCSPC and NCDA&CS looked for a fun way to encourage people to dine out, with an objective to specifically support local, small businesses and the state’s sweetpotato industry.

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 incredibly talented and creative North Carolina chefs, and they delivered!” said Michelle Grainger, executive director of the NCSPC. “We know that the sweetpotato is one of the most versatile vegetables out there and our wonderful culinary partners were able to show that in spades to restaurant patrons everywhere! 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. No matter the time of day a diner was looking for something to eat, they were provided choices at all price points and numerous cuisine styles. It was absolutely exciting and hopefully inspiring to consumers to try some of these dishes at home.”

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 at which to wow lucky customers.

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 (a farm to fork style restaurant in Belhaven)

Sassool (a Mediterranean café in Cary & Raleigh)

Larema Coffee (a craft coffee shop/restaurant & tea bar in Rocky Mount & Wilson)

Asali (a dessert shop specializing in Mediterranean treats in Cary)

Seabird (a seafood restaurant in Wilmington)

The winners had this to say about sweetpotatoes, the promotion and their unique creations:

“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. In our daily lives we may bypass this by necessity, but if you take a moment to use sweetpotatoes, you’d be so surprised at how they become a staple in your everyday life.”

“It is a very special feeling to be able to highlight the sweetpotato with this promotion—showcasing yet another delicious way that sweetpotatoes can be used and enjoyed,” said Simone Saleh Lawson, Sassool managing director. “Our owners’ roots are Lebanese and North Carolinian – having the Spicy Sweetpotato Hummus on our menu offering was the perfect representation of who we are. Using the beloved North Carolina vegetable in a Mediterranean style is something we’d like to do with other dishes, and the amazing response from our guests only encourages us to do it more!”

Due to the overwhelming success of the promotion, the NCSPC hopes to bring it back in the future with an even larger number of participating restaurants for the delight of eagerly awaiting foodies.

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About the North Carolina Sweetpotato Commission
Founded in 1961 the North Carolina SweetPotato Commission is a nonprofit corporation made up of over 400 sweetpotato producers, along with the packers and business associates that support them.  NCSPC is committed to supporting its growers and increasing sweetpotato consumption through education, promotional activities, research, and honorable horticultural practices among its producers. 

Did you know… Sweetpotato is one word? Details can be found here.

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