Conversation Peace: Perfecting TechniqueApr 01, 2017 08:30AM ● By Jason Huddle
Conversation Peace: Perfecting Technique
Besides providing those living in or visiting Cabarrus County even more choices in where to eat, restaurant openings are a driving force in the local economic engine.
As this area continues to experience growth on all levels, new eateries are popping up in shopping centers, mall parking lots and as franchise standalones. According to restaurant.org, U.S. restaurant industry sales should reach $799 billion this year. That’s 48 percent of each dollar spent on food as well as 4 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Going beyond what is specifically spent on food, tax dollars and jobs are generated. Some 14.7 million Americans are employed in restaurants – projected to reach 16.3 million by 2027 – currently nearly 10 percent of our nation’s workforce.
The National Restaurant Association’s America Works Here campaign says the restaurant industry is the nation’s second-largest private sector. “America’s restaurants play an important role in people’s lives, whether as a place to celebrate a special occasion, refresh and recharge while on travel, or a place to meet with colleagues over a business lunch or dinner.
“America Works Here highlights not just the fact that half of all Americans have worked in the industry, but that the nation’s 1 million restaurants are the place where business deals are made, where people can rise from entry-level first jobs to managers, executives and owners, and where organizations go for the philanthropic support that helps them do great work in local communities across the country,” restaurant.org says.
Employment in the restaurant industry is, surprisingly, often the first step toward restaurant ownership. The new restaurants these entrepreneurs open add to the vibrancy of communities and the country’s small business sector.
“National Restaurant Association statistics show that 80 percent of restaurant owners began in entry- level positions within the industry. Nearly 10 percent of all restaurants employ fewer than 50 people, adding to the small business landscape,” restaurant.org says.
First, the great name. Owners, executive chefs and brothers, Josef Alexander and Colin Bramlett say it was a collaboration with partners that settled on it.
Conversation Peace is located in the South Union Shopping Center on Union Street. Having opened its doors last August, Alexander and Bramlett came from Bonfire Bar & Grill on Branchview Drive. “We sold our ownership there because we wanted to open our own restaurant,” Alexander says.
They brought their other business venture – Extraordinary Catering – with them.
Both men grew up with a passion for preparing food. Bramlett learned how to cook from his grandmother, then studied at Southern Piedmont Community College, Community Culinary School and Central Piedmont Community College (see sidebar). He has also earned his Servsafe Instructor and Proctor certification.
Alexander enjoys perfecting his technique, whether it be French, Asian or what Conversation Peace
specializes in: Caribbean-influenced. “I’ve been a chef just about everywhere: Shoney’s, Mimosa Grill…,” he says. “One of our partners is from the Caribbean, so he brought that to the restaurant. You use curry, certain herbs – it’s how it’s prepared.”
Wikipedia.org explains that Caribbean food preparation utilizes ingredients common to that geographic area. Those might include rice, plantains, beans, cassava, cilantro (coriander), bell peppers, chickpeas, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, coconut, and locally available meats like beef, poultry, pork or fish.
“A characteristic seasoning for the region is a green herb and oil-based marinade, which imparts a flavor profile which is quintessentially Caribbean in character. Ingredients may include garlic, onions, scotch bonnet peppers, celery, green onions, and herbs like cilantro, marjoram, rosemary, tarragon and thyme. This green seasoning is used for a variety of dishes like curries, stews and roasted meats,” the site says.
“Some of our most popular dishes are seafood-stuffed avocados and shrimp-stuffed eggrolls. But we have great chicken wings and burgers, too,” Alexander says.
“We use fresh foods, fresh ingredients and offer gluten-free foods,” Bramlett adds.
But there can be challenges. Alexander and Bramlett are in a shopping center surrounded by other businesses. There’s a need to stand out among the crowd. Add to that, patrons want the most bang for their buck nowadays. The answer? Entertainment and philanthropy.
“On Sundays, we have the All-You-Can-Eat Sunday Buffet and the Church Challenge from 10 until 2,” Alexander says. “Parishioners can bring in their church bulletins to be part of the Church
Challenge. Ten percent of food sales that day go to a church in the area. Shag Dance Night is on Wednesdays. Miss Patty (Blackmon) teaches a class, then we have a DJ come in so everyone can shag.”
The Carolina Shag Dance hosts a beginners class from 6:00 to 7:00pm and an intermediate class from 7:00 to 8:00pm. And Thirsty Thursday’s $3 house shots and draft beer has seen a rise in the karaoke audience. What’s probably become the biggest event for Conversation Peace is its Friday Night Laughs, held the first Friday night of each month. Stand-up comedians take the stage and seating is limited.
“We’re trying to get people to buy advanced tickets because we sold out last time and then people wanted to be let in,” Alexander adds.
So, whether you’re in the mood for some Cajun jambalaya pasta, shrimp tacos or American standards, try out the casual, family atmosphere at Conversation Peace.
Story by : Kim Cassell
Photography by: Michael A. Anderson Photography