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Fresh, Family Friendly

Local Chef Put Gormet Twist On Bar Food Favorites

Chef Chris Sorenson serves gourmet bar food at Coach’s Corner Inn on East Second Street. Photo by Beverly Kehe-Rowland

“We pride ourselves as a family-friendly, neighborhood establishment. There has been a family-owned business on this corner for over 50 years. It was a Red and White Grocery Store, then Ang’s Grocery and The College Inn,” said Chris Sorenson, co-owner of Jamestown’s Coach’s Corner Inn and trained chef.

“Not many sports bars use aioli, sauces and specialty cheeses,” Sorenson said. “We call it pub food with a twist. It’s gourmet bar food, taking something for which you pay a lot of money somewhere else, put it here and have fun with it. Fine dining has an asiago-artichoke dish. We have asiago-artichoke chicken wings, which is one of our best sellers.”

Fresh, homemade soup is always offered, along with choices that may not be expected when one drives up to the business, such as a muffuletta panini made with havarti cheese, ham, salami and olive tapenade.

“We always have something unique on the menu, like frog legs, rattlesnake and Rocky Mountain oysters. Specials change each week: off the wall, fun stuff. We always have a specialty burger and a chicken dish each week. If I get a craving this week. It’ll be on the menu next week.”

He uses the example of when he remembered not having had sausage gravy for some time, after someone mentioned it in his presence recently. A sausage gravy burger found its way onto the specials list the following week. He believes he is the only eating establishment that has fresh pork rinds on the menu. Other dishes have made their way onto his menu that no other restaurant has on theirs or, in some cases, his was the first, such is the case with bacon marmalade, something he created to mimic the bacon jam he enjoyed when he was working in the western part of the United States.

“We are ‘Home of Jamestown’s Original Bacon Marmalade.’ It is a little sweeter than the jam. We load it on homemade potato chips, burgers and chicken wings. People tell me I should sell it by the jar.”

He has enjoyed cooking since he was in home economics class in seventh grade. “I was the only boy that liked being in there.”

His grandmother was the original owner of The Train Station Restaurant in North Warren, Pa., where he spent a lot of time and was able to help a bit as a kid. His first restaurant job was washing dishes at Vullo’s Restaurant, but he realized after two days that that wasn’t what he wanted to do to earn spending money. It wasn’t until 13 years later that he realized he wanted to pursue his passion.

After spending time as a bouncer and a bartender, while working a seasonal job for the Boy Scouts of America, he realized he needed to find a more permanent position. He took a job as a merchandising manager and assistant tour manager for the company that owned Royal Lipizzaner Stallions. At 29, he applied and was accepted to Le Cordon Bleu Institute of Culinary Arts in Pittsburgh, Pa., where he became certified by the American Culinary Federation.

During and after his time at school, he held several jobs, including one at a Cuban tapas night club that was frequented by Steelers and Pirates team members. He returned to Chautauqua County after receiving a call from the original owner of Forte where he worked for nearly two years. He then accepted a one-year contract as a consulting chef at Fireside Manor in Dunkirk. He spent a season as manager and executive chef at Chautauqua Lake Yacht Club before he was recruited by the Tanglewood Group where he developed a menu for their day care program, which was the first time he dealt with dietary restrictions.

“That was the first time being a chef turned into an office job,” he said.

He left the food service business when he took a job as a grape inspector with the New York State Department of Agriculture, hoping it would lead into a full-time position. He worked as a corporate produce inspector for three years, after receiving a call from Wegmans. He was based in Rochester, but traveled to California to see the fields where the crops were grown. It was at this time he realized how much he missed the restaurant business, after his co-workers brought ingredients to him with the request “go make something.”

In 2011, with his brother, Geoffrey Sorenson, who lives in Homer, N.Y., he bought his late cousin’s business, The College Inn. After spending a year remodeling the establishment that had opened in 1968, Coach’s Corner Inn opened on Dec. 21, 2012.

“When we rebuilt this place, it was me and a handful of friends who didn’t expect anything (in return). They helped me for a year to get it ready. These same friends are loyal customers today,” he said.

While he was running this business, he ran Coach’s on the Lake at Camp Chautauqua for two years and Coach’s at the Ball Park at College Stadium for five years. While at the ball park, Sorenson also redid the menu and process for Personal Touch Food Service at Jamestown Community College.

Coach’s Corner Inn caters luncheons for professionals, weddings and company events. His prices may be a little higher than other caterers, but all of the food is homemade and made with high-quality ingredients. The choices are endless, as he lets the customer tell him what they desire for their special meal, rather than having to choose from a list of choices.

He enjoys working with the customer to meet their wants and needs.

“No matter what their budget is, we will find a meal to fit it,” he said.

He started a benefit six years ago in order to give back to the community. Although named Coach’s Corner Inn Benefit for Youth Sports, the proceeds go to “anything that keeps kids active,” such as plays, bands, sports teams and more. The benefit has grown each year since it began and to date the Inn has been able to donate $16,000 to childrens’ activities. A golf tournament was the lone event until the last few years, when a steak fry was added. Along with the fry is a Chinese auction, a 300 club drawing and a performing band.

“We pick one youth organization for a major contribution and spread out the rest of the money in numerous smaller donations,” Sorenson said.

If and when the business owner ever gets free time, he would like to return to coaching football and wrestling, have time with his nieces and nephews and spend a day on the golf course. He is a member and past president of the Eagles Club and belongs to the Vikings. He is the son of Gary and Carla Sorenson of Jamestown.

“They’re my right-hand people. With a small business, I rely on them a lot. I call dad for maintenance and mom is my go-fer.”

He shared a few recipes. Both barbecue sauce recipes are good on chicken, beef or pork. The Guinness recipe is made using Coach’s Barbecue Sauce.

“If you like macaroni salad and you like macaroni and cheese, you’ll love mac and cheese salad,” he said.

Coach’s Corner Inn is located at 1118 E. Second St. Call 969-4499 for event catering and to host parties at the Inn.

Coach’s Barbecue Sauce

8 oz onion, diced small

1/4 c vegetable oil

4 T garlic, chopped

1/2 c apple cider vinegar

1/2 c Worcestershire sauce

1/2 c red wine vinegar

1 c water

3 c ketchup

3 c brown sugar

1/4 c dry mustard

1 T paprika

2 tsp chili powder

Salt and pepper to taste

In a 4-quart or larger pot, sweat onion in oil over medium-low heat until onion is translucent. Add garlic and stir. Cook 2 minutes, taking care not to burn garlic. Add vinegar, Worcestershire and water and bring to a boil. Add brown sugar and ketchup and stir until incorporated. Add remaining ingredients and blend with immersion blender. Tip: If you do not have an immersion blender, use home blender in small batches and combine. Makes 2 quarts.

Coach’s Guinness Barbecue Sauce

4 c Guinness Beer

1 c brown sugar

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1/2 tsp onion powder

2 qt Coach’s Barbecue Sauce

Bring beer to a boil. Add brown sugar, garlic powder and onion powder and combine. Add warm beer mixture to barbecue sauce and mix with emersion blender. Tip: If you do not have an immersion blender use home blender in small batches and combine.

Chana Masala

Vegetarian Indian Dish

1 T olive oil

1 large onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

2-16 oz cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed

2 tsp curry powder

1/2 tsp turmeric

1 T lemon juice

2 tomatoes, diced

1 tsp ground ginger

1 tsp cinnamon

1/4 c fresh cilantro, minced

Salt and pepper to taste

3 c cooked white rice

Heat oil in a large skillet. Add onion and saute until translucent. Add garlic and continue to saute until the onion is golden. Add chickpeas, curry powder, turmeric, lemon juice, tomatoes, 1/4 cup water, ginger and cinnamon. Bring to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes while stirring frequently. Ingredients should be wet and stew-like but not soupy. Continue to reduce or add water as needed. Remove from heat and stir in cilantro and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve over rice in a shallow bowl. May adjust seasoning to suite your taste. Makes 4 servings.

Irish Marinade

6 cloves garlic, chopped

3 shallots, chopped

6 oz watercress

1 1/2 bunches fresh parsley

1 1/2 oz chives

3/4 c butter, melted

2 1/4 c olive oil

1 1/2 c canola oil

1 c honey

1 1/4 c green Tabasco Sauce

3 T red wine vinegar

1 1/2 tsp balsamic vinegar

Salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processer. Serve with chicken, beef or pork.

Mac and Cheese Salad

1 c mayonnaise

2 T apple cider vinegar

2 tsp dijon mustard

Salt and pepper to taste

1/2 tsp sugar

2 c extra sharp cheddar cheese, grated

1 c Feta cheese, crumbled

1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved

1/2 lb bacon, diced and cooked

1/2 c frozen peas, defrosted

1/4 c scallions, sliced thin

2 c dry elbow macaroni, cooked, drained and cooled

Combine mayonnaise, vinegar, mustard, salt, pepper and sugar in a large bowl. Fold in cheeses, tomatoes, bacon, peas and scallions. Toss with pasta and mix well.

Ratatouille

1 lb zucchini

1/2 lb yellow squash

1/2 lb eggplant

1 lb onion

2 green peppers

1 yellow pepper

1 red pepper

4 cloves garlic

2 lb canned tomatoes

6 oz olive oil

1/2 c parsley, chopped

1 bay leaf

1/4 tsp thyme

Salt and pepper to taste

Cut zucchini and yellow squash into 1/2-inch slices. Peel eggplant and dice in large pieces. Slice onion. Remove seeds and core from peppers and dice in 1-inch pieces. Saute zucchini and squash in a little of the olive oil until it is about half-cooked. Remove from pan. Saute eggplant in a little of the olive oil until it is about half-cooked. Remove from pan. Saute peppers and onion until they are about half-cooked. Add garlic and saute another minute. Combine all ingredients in a roasting pan. Cover and cook slow in a 325 degree oven for about 30 minutes or until vegetables are tender and liquid has reduced. Serve hot or cold. Makes 20 4-ounce portions.

Steph’s Rum Cake

Cake

1 box yellow cake mix with pudding in mix

3 eggs

1/2 c cold water

1/3 c vegetable oil

1/2 c dark rum

Glaze

1/4 c butter

1 c sugar

1/4 c water

1/2 c dark rum

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour 2 loaf pans. Mix together cake mix, eggs, water, oil and rum in large bowl. Split batter between 2 loaf pans and bake at 325 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes. Allow to cool and remove cakes from pans. Pierce top of cakes numerous times with a fork. For glaze-Melt butter in sauce pan. Add water and sugar and boil for 5 mins while stirring continuously. Remove from heat and stir in rum. Drizzle cakes with glaze mixture. Makes two loaves.

Sauerbraten

A heavily-marinated, tradition German roast

5 lbs brisket or chuck roast

Marinade

2 c red wine vinegar

2 c water

8 oz onion, sliced

4 oz carrot, sliced

1 clove garlic, chopped

2 T brown sugar

1 bay leaf

2 whole cloves

1/2 tsp peppercorns, crushed

1 tsp salt

Braising Vegetables

2 carrots, chopped

1 onion, chopped

1/2 stalk celery, chopped

Sauce

8oz red wine

4 oz gingersnap cookies

Place beef in a non-metallic container, big enough for meat but small enough so marinade covers meat. Place all marinade ingredients into container with beef. If marinade does not cover beef, add equal parts water & vinegar until meat is covered. Cover and refrigerate for 4 days. Rotate meat in marinade daily. Remove meat from marinade. Pat dry thoroughly with towels. In a large skillet, brown all sides of meat. Strain marinade. In a roasting pan, add meat, braising vegetables and enough marinade to half-cover the meat. Cover and braise in a 300 degree oven for 2-3 hours until meat is tender. Remove meat from braising liquid and place on cutting board to rest. Strain 2 quarts of braising liquid into a saucepan. Skim off fat. Bring to a boil and reduce to 1 1/2 quarts. Add wine and boil for 3 more minutes. Crush gingersnap cookies into crumbs. Reduce heat to a simmer. Stir in gingersnap crumbs and simmer for 4 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand for 5 minutes. Allow crumbs to be completely absorbed. Slice meat. Plate with slices overlapping and ladle sauce over top. Makes 6-8 oz portions.

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