Published on July 8th, 2013 | by Nature Humphries3
Local Chefs Decline Food Network Prize – What Happened?
Oxford, Miss. (TLV) – Food Court Wars, Food Network’s newest competition show, aired its first episode Sunday night. Oxford chefs Erika Lipe (Lenora’s) and Steven “Stevo” McCain (McEwen’s) were featured on the show with their restaurant PoBoy Station, competing for $10,000 and “free rent for a year” at the Food Court in the Bonita Lakes Mall in Meridian, Mississippi.
PoBoy Station competed against Mary and Thomas Jordan, who own Suck the Shuck Tamales in Clinton, Mississippi. The Jordans won the teams’ first challenge by winning over mall shoppers with samples of their food. They were given an advantage in the marketing phase of the competition—air time on a local Meridian radio show. But Erika and Stevo’s marketing strategy ultimately brought in more customers. Team PoBoy offered sandwiches to concert goers at the Riley Center during a packed house for an Aaron Neville show.
The final showdown had the teams compete for the most sales during one hectic day of service in the food court. Team PoBoy snagged the win when people lined up for roast beef poboys, fried green tomato BLT poboys, crawfish mac and cheese, and other delicious offerings.
However, the surprise ending shows host Tyler Florence paying a visit to the Jordan’s home in Clinton, Mississippi, to explain that, “due to personal reasons, Erika and Stevo could not open the restaurant.” So, the $10,000 and free rent was instead awarded to Mary and Thomas, who were thrilled to accept the offer.
So what happened?
After returning to Oxford from Meridian and sourcing equipment, researching small business operations, making notes and plans, and doing a ton of legwork, Erika’s car was stolen from her home on June 13 with all of her materials inside. The car was later recovered, but she didn’t get her stuff back.
“That was really the breaking point,” said Erika.
“We would have had to do so much work in so little time just to get caught back up to where we were,” said Stevo.
With pressure to open the restaurant in time for the July 7 premiere, Erika decided to decline the offer.
Even before the stolen car, Erika began having reservations as she did her research and found that there’s no such thing as “free rent.”
“It turns out I needed about $25,000 more to get it up and going,” she said. “We could have made some money in the first year, which I guess not a lot of restaurants do. With our really conservative estimates … probably about as much as we would make here in Oxford working 40-hour weeks.”
They both weighed the options and decided that Oxford is where they belong, and they weren’t ready to leave home and face potential debt.
And frankly, we’re happy to keep them around! They really killed it in the competitions, proving that Oxford has a wealth of talent and a truly special restaurant culture. We are extremely proud of their onscreen success and their decision to allow the other team to have that opportunity.
“That was my prize anyway—winning on TV,” Erika said, smiling.
See more behind the scenes photographs by Newt Rayburn on The Local Voice Facebook page and read Nature Humphries article and interview with Erika and Stevo in The Local Voice #183.
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