Ask about his 28-foot trailer and Paul Covington, a chef at Crook's Corner (610 W. Franklin St., Chapel Hill, www.crookscorner.com, 929-7643), sounds like a 16-year-old boy with a new car. He is totally amped up describing his dream of seven years, a "restaurant on wheels," which he had built to spec.
"It is three feet longer than the kitchen at Crook's," he says before listing some of the equipment that the Crook's Corner Catering (crookscornercatering.com, 801-8015) trailer includes: a hood, a double fryer, a convection oven, a freezer and multiple coolers, among other things.
"It's a whole kitchen," says Covington, who has been at Crook's for 11 years. The trailer is packed with Crook's Corner chefs and staff—sometimes up to seven line cooks for a busy event. Covington believes in the superiority of the mobile kitchen over other catering options, such as hauling food out of vans. "Our fried chicken is actually crispy," he explains.
But Crook's catering isn't the only detail that Covington has to think about these days. In early October, Covington helped Crook's open a sister restaurant—Crook's Atrium Cafe—in Chapel Hill's Europa Center (100 Europa Drive, www.crooksatriumcafe.com, 933-2473). The new restaurant, open 7:30 a.m. until 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, fills a lunch and breakfast gap left by the original Crook's, which has focused on dinner and Sunday brunch at its spot in Chapel Hill for more than 20 years. Covington says at Crook's he has received dozens of calls about lunch options and is happy that he finally has a positive response to offer. "Now when people call I can say, 'As a matter of fact, we are doing breakfast and lunch and it's just down the street.'"
Crook's Atrium Cafe took shape while Covington was looking for a spot to park his trailer. The Europa Center, a complex with more than 50 businesses, had plenty of parking, as well as an available restaurant space and a built-in market for customers looking for a good, quick meal. The café offers a range of breakfast sandwiches for less than $3, and for lunch, the likes of a grilled pimento cheese ($4.50), a fried green tomato BLT ($4.95) and, staying true to the original Crook's, shrimp and grits ($8.95).
If you're ready to get into the holiday spirit, tickets remain for Triangle Family Services' grown-ups-only Evening Benefit Event on Dec. 2 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Umstead Hotel and Spa (100 Woodland Pond Drive, Cary, 447-4000, www.theumstead.com).
The event includes an auction of the intricate gingerbread houses created for the event, a silent auction of other donated goods and services, holiday music, wine, beer, hors d'oeuvres and desserts. Tickets are $65 per person and at press time were available online at www.tfsnc.org. Proceeds benefit Triangle Family Services, which helps families with a range of problems, from credit counseling to mental health issues.
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