You bet your purdy neck, Worcester loves its Bushel N Peck

Often nestled in the nooks and crannies of major cities, the classic American deli can sometimes simply be overlooked in these days of style over substance.

Maybe even by a local food writer who doesn’t get up to The Summit very much.

Better late than never!

Besides, plating iconic lunchtime favorites and holding the line on affordability appears to be a formula that will be keeping Bushel N Peck around for a while, no matter who’s in charge. Putting their customers first is, indeed, the top item on the menu (though loyalists might make a case for the signature Italian — either wrapped and ready or made to order).

“We are at an advantage with our customers as we can connect with them one-on-one every day. We are always open to discussing any new ideas or issues they may have with our locations,” says Michael Bartosiewicz, who bought two locations, at East Mountain Street and Tatnuck Square, in 2005 from Tom Sr. and Elsa Oliveri.

“We engage with our customers through social media, which is a vital tool for us. Through this, we learn what dishes work at each Bushel N Peck and we offer different options depending on the location and the wants of the customers.”

Check out Bushel N Peck on ‘Phantom Gourmet’

Bluefin Technology connects with customers, Worcester

When a company decides to “do the right thing” and stay with it, good things can happen after all.

For founding partners Jay Cahill and Michael Po, the entrepreneurial escapades of Bluefin Technology Partners eventually landed them in downtown Worcester in 2013. The company has 12 employees in a recently renovated building which was the former home of the Telegram & Gazette.

After several forays spanning eight years as a team with ventures in the States, Cahill and Po built a mobile application in the social media space for Instagram in Shanghai during the late 2000s that was solely for the Chinese market.

Because they had established their business before the Chinese government crackdown on social media, they were grandfathered in and allowed to pursue their business.

“We had millions of customers on the platform and we eventually sold the company to SINA Corp. of China, which has a Weibo platform that hosts their own social media content of its users,” Po explained.

After the sale Bluefin struck out as a consulting organization.

“A lot of people were tapping us for our … experience in developing large-scale applications for consumers that can handle millions of customers on the back end,” Cahill said. “That was what our pedigree had been, and we connected with Josh (Croke) and brought in a lot of the user experience design and a back end piece with our mobile experience.”

As the team was working within these parameters, the IoT (Internet of Things) market emerged as the next wave. So that’s when they established residence in Worcester.

When Worcester’s best chefs compete, everybody wins

Worcester’s “Foodie Renaissance” is well-documented. New restaurants of all shapes and sizes continue to elbow their way into the mainstream, all while collecting accolades and ratcheting up that friendly neighborhood competition along Shrewsbury Street, in the Canal District, across the city and beyond.

That one-upmanship will be at its zenith Sunday, Jan. 29, when Worcester’s Best Chef Competition, featuring top cooks from many of the city’s and region’s most popular eateries, celebrates its 10th anniversary by inviting all previous winners back to Mechanics Hall for an “Iron Chef”-style battle royale.

“I love participating in this event,” says Christopher O’Harra, executive chef of Flying Rhino Café & Watering Hole on Shrewsbury Street.

O’Harra, winner of the People’s Choice award in 2015, is among 14 returning competitors who have either won the event’s “Iron Chef” title or been named a people’s or judges’ choice winner. One notable name will be absent from the impressive roster.

Hidden Gem: Belmont Vegetarian a true calling for owner — and its many fans

Whoever said bacon makes everything better has obviously never eaten at Belmont Vegetarian, a diminutive and distinct eatery nestled in the first floor of a three-decker on a bustling, sloping corner of Bell Hill.

Between the plentiful vegan and vegetarian dishes and the island-inspired flavors, coming in for lunch will not leave you wondering, “Where’s the beef?”

At Belmont Vegetarian, 157 Belmont St., the term vegetarian is about more than taking advantage of a trendy buzzword-turned-lifestyle that continues to grow in popularity. Instead, for owner Stephen Jones, it’s an homage to his mother, how he grew up and a way of life to which many in his current neighborhood can relate.

“I was raised in poor circumstances and meat was expensive,” he says. “My mom did the best she could with what she had and meat wasn’t always an option, so she raised me to be a vegetarian through no fault of her own.”

Hidden Gem: Uncle Jay’s Twisted Fork

When he is in full-blown chef mode, Jay Powell can be heard from the kitchen — yelling out specials and giving shoutouts to his patrons, making sure everyone knows they are appreciated.

And when his business, Uncle Jay’s Twisted Fork bistro, closes for a week, everyone notices that, too.

Nestled in the Cherry Valley section of Leicester, the Twisted Fork stands as a local staple known for its authentic hollandaise sauce, eggs Benedict and outspoken chef. But when the doors stay shut for too long, regulars are left wondering why.

Chef Jay Powell, center, and his teammates at the recent 2016 World Food Championships in Alabama.

Courtesy Jay Powell / Facebook

Chef Jay Powell, center, and his teammates at the recent 2016 World Food Championships in Alabama.

“My hiatus a few weeks back was for good reason,” explains Powell, Twisted Fork’s owner and chef. “I was in Orange Beach, Alabama, participating in the World Food Championships event and it was great. The chef who initially beat me in [Food Network’s] ‘Cooks vs. Cons,’ Chef Vita Jarrin, called me to set up as teammates for the recipe challenge.”

“The best part was that the recipe category was focused on Benedicts!”

Hidden Gem: Eggroll Lady & Fish Shack

While the city of Worcester is experiencing a food renaissance with the addition of several high-end and trendy restaurants over the past year, there is something to be said for the places that have held their ground away from the spotlight of revitalization.

The places in the corners of the city that feel a little like home. Eggroll Lady & Fish Shack, at 609 West Boylston St., is one of them.

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Giselle Rivera-Flores / For Worcester Sun

Phuong Lam, the Eggroll Lady

Visiting the Eggroll Lady for lunch or dinner is like dropping by your grandmother’s house — it’s filled with laughter, comfort food and tradition. The sweet (egg roll) lady in the kitchen doesn’t worry about how much money she makes, but instead focuses on the quality of her foods and the love with which she makes them.

“When I started this, it wasn’t about making money. I wanted to do this because it was my way of communicating my traditions and my gratitude to the people of America that welcomed me when I arrived here. This is my way of showing my appreciation,” said Phuong Lam, the Eggroll Lady herself and the shop’s owner.

Local Business Spotlight: More than a century of sweet sounds at Union Music

You cannot deny it. There is something special about walking into a store and being greeted by absolute professionals in their business. So it is with Union Music. And it starts at the top, with the president and owner of this 116-year-old family enterprise.

Caring is the operative word in this world – caring about the instrument and your connection to it, the audience (even if it is one), and of helping others find their rhythm, which may be accompanied by a rash of blues, for those who make a living in music.

Carl Kamp, owner and president of this three-generation family business, recounted the history of Union Music, beginning with his grandfather.

Carl Kamp, owner and legacy at Union Music, a business in the city for more than 100 years.

Art Simas / For Worcester Sun

Carl Kamp, owner and legacy at Union Music, a business in the city for more than 100 years.

“Originally my grandfather, Samuel Cashner, who emigrated from Russia, started a pawnshop and music business on lower Front Street in 1900 (where the Peoples Bank is today, before the construction of the taller buildings).

“My father, Leon Kamp, started working for him and married my grandfather’s daughter … and a few years later, I came along in 1946.

Ukulele players string together a community at Union Music

About 10 years ago, Rich Leufstedt discovered a passion: the ukulele.

Originally a bass guitarist who, in his younger days and before family commitments, played with bands in this area, Leufstedt decided to put down the bass and pick up the ukulele.

“There are already all kinds of great guitarists out there,” he said. “So, instead of dedicating myself to be a better guitarist, I discovered no one played the ukulele. That was 10 years and 30 ukuleles ago.”

He may have been onto something in 2006.

Ukulele Club at Union Music

Courtesy Rich Leufstedt / Union Music

Ukulele Club at Union Music

“Ukuleles are much more popular today than 10 years ago. Back then one could go on eBay and find some bargains. And I found several vintage 1950s ukuleles … for one-third of the price of what they go for now,” he said.


Local Business Spotlight: Union Music, a century of sweet sounds


But the four-stringed instrument, known mostly for its Hawaiian-tinged sound, has entered yet another renaissance of interest and performance – and this time it may be here for a while.

Local Business Spotlight: Shrewsbury Street orders up The Usual

The newest addition to Shrewsbury Street’s Restaurant Row plans to arrive this fall with a distinct spin on the sandwich.

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The Usual expects to become the new not-so-usual eatery along the famous foodie thoroughfare with a tentative November opening at 166 Shrewsbury St., where Niche Hospitality Group has incubated Mezcal Tequila Cantina, now downtown, and The Fix Burger Bar, now on Grove Street.

Local Business Spotlight: Crafty, creative and exciting things are coming out of the WorcShop

Learning, discovery and success shouldn’t be out of reach for anyone. When it comes to closing that distance, the WorcShop is here to help.

WorcShop, which opened its doors in April, can be thought of as, first and foremost, a greenhouse for creativity.

“Inspiration, innovation, empowerment are our chief tenets,” said Randal Gardner, co-owner of Eternity Ironworks and one of the WorcShop’s founding members.

The possibilities at WorcShop could be enlightening.

Jessica White / courtesy WorcShop

The possibilities at WorcShop could be enlightening.

For a monthly fee the shop, at 243 Stafford St., offers a variety of different offices, work bays, classrooms and (perhaps most impressive) a wide selection of heavy tools from lathes to tensile testing machines. This means if an experienced crafter needs a place to set up shop or a newcomer wants to try their hand, the hard part has been taken care of.

“When people want to start out (with a new hobby), they ask themselves, ‘How hard can it be?’ ” said Alex Phillips, WorcShop member and leatherworker. “And if you have all the pieces, the answer is, ‘Not very.’ ”

“You get to try things without the hassle of startup costs,” executive director Angela Pasceri said.