Chef Spotlight – Chef Sidney Coves at True Flavors Diner + Catering

True Flavors Diner + Catering is hidden in a small shopping strip off the corner of Sedwick Road and Highway 55 in Durham.  Owner and Executive Chef Sidney Coves (pronounced co-vay) draws on his North Carolina roots to create decadent Southern brunch favorites in a relaxed environment.  I was fortunate to meet Chef Sidney while working with the WNCN crew to film a segment on what makes us (Triangle Foodie Adventures and True Flavors) unique to North Carolina.  My excitement only grew when I realized Chef Sidney is killing the brunch game with dishes that are over the top in flavor and presentation.

Talking with Chef Sidney, it’s easy to see he loves what he does and takes pride in doing things the right way.  “Sure, it costs more to purchase local produce and proteins, but we don’t cut corners.  We want our customers to know we are procuring high quality products to prepare and serve them high quality dishes.”  He utilizes many family businesses including Ford’s Produce and Cliff’s Meat Market, with others listed right on the menus.  The effort doesn’t go unnoticed, as I experienced more than a handful of peoples’ mouths drop when their dishes came to the table – myself included!

True Flavors Diner + Catering - Shrimp and Grits

True Flavors Diner + Catering – Shrimp and Grits

Originally from Fayetteville, North Carolina, Chef Sidney felt the culinary bug early.  He set sail for Norfolk, Virginia, to attend Johnson & Wales University after finishing high school.  He completed their Culinary Arts program and worked for a few years in the area after graduation in the fine dining arena.  Chef Sidney credits this time to where he “honed and learned the importance in the full dining experience from service to the food.”  He was drawn back home to Durham to be closer to family, as he was starting to raise a family himself.

Chef Sidney initially launched True Flavors Catering in May 2004.  This business built over time with experience catering for weddings, banquets, parties and a multitude of other special events.  The demand for True Flavors’ food on a regular basis lead to the eventual opening of a brick and mortar location.  Thus, True Flavors Diner + Catering was opened in 2014 in their current Durham locale.  Business has been steady ever since for Chef Sidney and his team.

Despite being in an urban environment, there is a mobile herb garden inside the True Flavors Diner that sits just off the kitchen.  During service, it’s not uncommon for Chef Sidney and his line cooks to step over, snip off a bit of whichever herb they need and then incorporate the herb into whatever dish they’re making.  Chef Sidney says this has become an attraction for guests, as they initially think it’s a garden box that’s purely there for decoration.  “They get excited when they see we’re actually using it as a functional element in our kitchen.  It’s the little things like that that we pride ourselves on in enhancing the customer experience.”

True Flavors Diner + Catering - Mobile Herb Garden

True Flavors Diner + Catering – Mobile Herb Garden

Chef Sidney has an easygoing smile and infectious laugh, but it’s clear he is no-nonsense when it comes to putting in 100% effort.  Chef Sidney has mentored many young budding cooks, anxious to learn from a culinary veteran.  He says, “I’m hard on my staff because I know if they learn the right way now, they’re going to carry that with them wherever they go.  I expect them to give their best and learn from mistakes, with the same expectations set for myself.  I value my staff’s input and feedback because if they feel invested and valued, we all win.  The success of what we do is based on everyone’s team effort.”  Chef Sidney even enlists the help of his young daughters who come in on the weekends.  He’s not sure if either of them want to take over the business one day, but he says he loves having them help out in the family restaurant to “learn the life skill of interacting with people in a food service environment.”

After getting to know Chef Sidney and talking about his menu, the flavors wafting through the air were only making my taste buds dance with anticipation.  He spoiled us with an amazing spread of some of the most popular items at True Flavors Diner + Catering.

Chef Sidney’s Chicken and Waffles were an awesome take on the traditional staple.  Chef Sidney gave us a sneak peek at the spring’s version of the mini waffles filled with blueberries and every bite had a warm pop of sweet, tart blueberry deliciousness.  The chicken was GBD (golden brown and delicious) and tender inside that went well with the final chipotle honey drizzle.

True Flavors Diner + Catering - Chicken and Waffles

True Flavors Diner + Catering – Chicken and Waffles

The Brunch Burger is a monster that requires rolling up your sleeves and unhinging your jaw to dig into this bad boy.  Farm fresh, handmade beef patties (yes, two patties) are layered with a grilled ham steak, peppered fried egg, cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomato and black pepper mayo all nestled into a brioche bun.  Prepare to experience satisfaction that borders on the lines of food coma.

The originality of the PBLT (House made pimento cheese, peppered bacon, lettuce and tomato) was perfectly paired with a large stack of hand-cut onion rings.  The PBLT is the crunchy, cheese lovechild of a grilled cheese sandwich and a BLT.  This was an unbelievably simple dish that just blew my mind from both taste and its awesome presentation.

True Flavors Diner + Catering - PBLT

True Flavors Diner + Catering – PBLT

Shrimp & Grits from True Flavors is another show stopper.  The creamy four cheese grit base is topped with not only perfectly grilled shrimp, but a peppery and savory gravy with sausage, fresh corn, peppers, onions and a bit of arugula.  Every ingredient enhances each other and is only made better by the fact that it’s served in a mini cast iron skillet.

If you’re ready to lick the screen after seeing these pictures, come experience True Flavors Diner + Catering’s menu for our Foodie Adventure Brunch with bottomless mimosas on July 18th at 7pm.  Chef Sidney and his team have carefully crafted the menu just for our Tri Foodies and they can’t wait to have us out.  Seating is limited, so head over to our events page to grab a ticket before it’s too late!

True Flavors Diner + Catering - Brunch Burger

True Flavors Diner + Catering – Brunch Burger

NoteFrom time to time we’re invited out to try a restaurant or to taste new menu items. This meal is usually comped, as one item on this visit was. We’re under no obligation to write a positive review or any review at all when we’re invited out to try a place.  Every review you see on our site will be an honest review of the place whether or not the restaurant provided us with the meal at their cost.

Tessa Nguyen is a chef and registered dietitian working in the Triangle area. She is an alumna of Johnson & Wales University and Meredith College. When Tessa isn’t traveling and discovering new food spots, she teaches culinary nutrition cooking classes at Duke and works as a consultant in the health and wellness industry. You can follow her on Instagram or Twitter @ChefTessaRD.

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