Williamsport, Pa. – Cooking with love. That’s what entrepreneur Roselle Applewhite and his cook Deborah Parks have to offer at A Kut Above Katering restaurant at 761 W. Fourth Street. The soul food kitchen opened in June, and business has been picking up, according to Applewhite.
“It’s been really good so far. The community has embraced it,” Applewhite said.
Applewhite’s business venture began in November when he opened a catering business. At first, business was good. People were booking events and Applewhite’s schedule was filling up. Then came the pandemic and the shutdown in March. Events were canceled, and Applewhite found his business dwindling.
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When Lycoming County went into the green reopening phase in June, Applewhite decided to take his business in a new direction. Growing up in the South, he was raised on home cooking and soul food. Realizing there are not many choices for soul food in Williamsport, Applewhite decided to transform A Kut Above Katering into a soul food restaurant.
“I was born in Goldsboro, North Carolina, 50 minutes from Raleigh,” Applewhite said. “I have lived in this area for 25 years now, and before that I lived in New Jersey for a short time. I love the area and the community” Applewhite said.
Growing up his parents cooked soul food and it became a family experience. “Everyone stood in the kitchen with their parents and cooked. There’s no recipes – it’s cooked with love,” Applewhite said.
Applewhite paired with Parks, who he said, “has been a cook for a long time,” to launch the business. The menu includes soul food staples such as collard greens, candied yams, cabbage, catfish, and fried chicken.
The food preparation process begins on Wednesdays when Applewhite and Parks come into the restaurant to start getting ingredients around. On the days the restaurant is open for service — Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays — the pair comes in at 8 a.m. to start preparing the day’s meals. “It takes time to cut up and prepare the greens,” Applewhite said.
The current menu has platters that include main courses such as fried chicken wings, catfish (fried or steamed), chicken tenders and whiting fish. Sides available include pasta seafood salad, mac and cheese, potato salad, candied yams, rice and gravy, collard greens, cabbage, and fries.
When asked if the menu items come from recipes passed down in his family, Applewhite is quick to say no. “There were no recipes passed down. It’s just good home cooking.” The preparation of these meals is innate to Applewhite, as he said, “there’s no measurements, just love.”
In light of recent current events, national media has given much attention to Black-owned businesses and the importance of supporting them. The Williamsport area has few Black-owned businesses. But for Applewhite, he would rather focus on inspiring youth in his community.
“Being Black-owned is great. But for me, it’s more about Black kids to show them, this is something you can do too,” Applewhite said.
Applewhite said if business continues to pick up, he may look at expanding in the future. But for now, he is happy with where he is. “I really love this area and it’s good to see the community welcome us.”
A Kut Above Katering is open Thursday through Saturday from 12 to 7:30 p.m. Takeout is available and there is limited inside dining. The restaurant menu also is available on Doordash. Phone is (570) 244-2260.