When you visit Coop Rotisserie in Amesbury, you get more than a great lunch (or dinner), you get a piece of Chef-Owner Elvis Jimenez-Chavez’s heart and soul on a plate. You will also get his infectious smile.
“I don’t take anyone that comes into the restaurant for granted,” he says. “I feel that the diners are doing us a favor by coming in—they can choose other places. I want to make sure we pay attention to every detail—from the temperature of the dining room to the lighting to the colors on the walls.”
He also pays a lot of attention to the food, which represents an infusion of ingredients from Latin America via the Caribbean (he was born there) with classic cooking techniques. The result is a style of menu that is uniquely his own—and it changes often. “I get bored cooking the same thing day in and day out,” he says with a laugh. “Specials are so important to me for my own sanity and for the sale and well-being of my staff.”
Creating specials from ingredients he personally selects and purchases each week, Elvis cited one recent dish, Potato, Peanut and Coriander Soup, a staple in Bolivia and Ecuador that he made his own.
“They grow lots of potatoes down there and they grow their own peanuts,” he says. “They use beef stock, but I used vegetable stock—it turned out very nice.”
While diners tend to gravitate toward many of his specials for lunch, there are some staples on the Coop Rotisserie menu. One of their most popular lunch items is the Grilled Avocado, a salad that features, of course, grilled avocado with tomatoes, mozzarella pearls, mixed greens, white Balsamic Vinaigrette, and basil chiffonade.
Like tacos? Then you will love their Taco, which includes two soft corn tortillas and is served with pickled green cabbage, radishes, queso fresco, and either vegetables, chicken, or braised beef. The Burrito is another popular lunch offering, which comes with either vegetable, chicken or braised beef with rice, beans (pinto or black), romaine, tomatoes, salsa de chiles mixtos, pepper jack, guacamole and crema fresca.
With fall here and winter around the corner, you might want to opt for a soup instead. Try their Aguadito De Pollo, which Elvis describes as their signature chicken soup, which consists of chicken, vegetables and a flavorful broth with cilantro. Of course, you have to actually visit Coop Rotisserie to check out what they might have as a daily soup special, which recently incorporated pumpkin, chopped dates and caramelized pistachios. Most of these daily soup specials are vegetable, too, as Elvis said many diners specifically come in looking for meatless options.
Remember that pumpkin? Well, Elvis first used that pumpkin in a quinoa and wild rice cake with roasted sweet plantains, pumpkin and chick peas in a saffron orange sauce.
As for how he comes up with such unique and eclectic creations, Elvis “blamed” his parents, as he said they introduced him to indigenous foods from across the globe. “My father was in the military, so I was raised all over the world,” he says. “What I and my siblings learned and experienced, you don’t learn that in school. It shaped my approach and view towards food.”
For Elvis, Coop Rotisserie is more than a business. It is his passion and his dream—and one that called to him even after he had chosen another career. Previous to his culinary career and training, he was a lawyer. The law, however, did not stir his heart, but food did. It was a calling that at first confused his parents, but then embraced by them.
“I made a really nice spread for them over dinner and I told them, ‘I am your creation,’” he says. “My mom tasted my food and tears came down her face. She understood what I was doing…It was a ‘Broadway moment.’ We laughed and cried.”
And he has been cooking ever since. Visit the Coop Rotisserie and you will get more than a great soup, sandwich, or salad.
“I love what I’m doing,” he says. “My heart is here and it shapes how I cook…My food is me.”
Rob Levey - Taste of The Seacoast Magazine