Spotlight on a Restaurant: Cafe Duo of Greenville and Chocowinity
● By Kathryn
In this issue of Impressions, we spotlight Café Duo Restaurant, which has two locations, one at 505 Red Banks Road in the Lynndale Shoppes in Greenville and one on Highway 33 in Chocowinity, NC.
Café Duo is a neighborhood casual restaurant owned by a duo of chefs, a husband and wife team that share the same passion for food and cooking, Executive Chef Chris and Pastry Chef Mayra. The Duo of chefs have over 20 years of experience creating delicious recipes for patrons to enjoy.
Café Duo Restaurant is the loving evolution of their outstanding culinary careers. Both Chris and Mayra started in the food industry long before the Food Network® or any current television chef. In high school, Chris took his first job with a local catering company, where he had the opportunity to attend an NRA Food Show in Chicago and see national culinary competitions and exhibits. He spent the next four years in the US Navy, working in such places as: Paris, Marseilles, Venice, California and Florida.
After the Navy, Chris began working at fine dining restaurants like Marker in Philadelphia.He then moved to Miami, FL where he worked for Williams Island Club, other prestigious area private country clubs, and fine dining restaurants like Toscana 2000. In Miami, Chris attended Johnson & Wales University, earning a Culinary Arts degree.
Mayra’s passion for cooking and baking began when she was a teenager helping her mother bake and decorate elaborate wedding cakes. Mayra attended the Universityof Puerto Rico, but found she was not satisfied and decided to pursue a culinary art certification from the Puerto Rico Hotel School. Mayra went on to work for Puerto Rico’s Marriott and Wyndham Hotel and
Beach Resorts. Her passion continued to grow and led her to pursue further culinary education. She then moved to Miami to attend Johnson & Wales University in the Baking and Pastry Arts program. This is where the Duo met.
Mayra worked in Miami at the Sheratonand Lowes Hotels and Beach Resorts with Chef Allen. She worked as Chef Instructor at Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts.
In 2005, Chris and Mayra decided to head northward to Greenville, NC. They fell in love with the small city atmosphere anddecided to call Greenville home.
“The concept of Café Duo restaurant was visualized many years ago, and we finally got the opportunity to open our first locationat Winterville in 2010,” said Mayra.“We wanted to create a casual, but elegant, relaxed, unpretentious atmosphere with a semi-open kitchen preparing quality food with fresh local ingredients — and all provided with impeccable service and reasonable prices,” she added.
Café Duo specializes in fresh pasta and seafood and creates new American cuisine with classic European (Italian, Spanish and French) influences. Chef Chris utilizes ingredients he can obtain when they’re fresh, to create new daily menu features, to surprise patrons with something unique everytime they dine at Café Duo.
For first time Duo visitors, menu favorites and “must try” items would include the Cioppino, the Chilean Sea Bass, the Pasta Bolognese. On the Sunday Brunch menu, (served only in the Greenville location) fresh baked pastries like Quesitos and Pecan Sticky Buns are the ultimate treat.
Both locations feature creative, unique cocktail menus including the famous Café Duo Guava Bellini. On Wednesdays evenings, they offer Sangrias and Tapas, all made from scratch. Their tapas (or small plates) features have included local crab empanadas and filet mignon pinchos. Tuesdays are their martini nights.
Café Duo also offers premium after-dinner drinks, great espresso, and sinful desserts like chocolate soufflé cake to complete the culinary experience.
The kitchen is run by like a fine-tuned instrument. The staff jokingly refer to Chef Chris as “Chef Ramsey,” from the Hell’s Kitchen television show, for his similar old school, strict disciplinary and perfectionistic style. Chef Chris typical starts his day with a coffee ceremony consisting of a double espresso with perfect crema! Long days, often more than 16 hours between Chocowinity and Greenville, are the norm for the Duo with staff training, cooking, tasting, and managing the business end of the restaurant. But, Chris and Mayra are passionate and love what they do.
In their “off” time, the DUO like to spend time at home with their two young daughters and friends in a casual, relax atmosphere, complete with delicious food. They enjoy growing their own herbs, vegetables and fruits to utilize at home when demonstrating to their children the process of cooking fresh and from scratch. Once meals are complete, they prefer dining al fresco or outside. The home menu often include fresh local fish and seafood. Sometimes they’ll create a seafood salad on rustic bread, pack and head the beach.
The Duo don’t spend their “off” time watching much television, but when they do, it’s not food or cooking “reality drama” or “iron” competitions. They prefer classic culinary choices via PBS or the Discovery Channel, such as “Great Chefs” and “World-Class Cuisine” featuring actual professional chefs demonstrating dishes and recipes with precise step-by-step classic techniques.
Visit Café Duo and give them a try. They’re located at 505 Red Banks Road in Greenville (252-439-2233) and at 28 Hwy 33 West in Chocowinity (252-940-1230). Learn more at www.CafeDuoRestaurant.com. Be sure to tell them you saw them in Impressions.