Thursday, January 29, 2015

Meet Samoa Soiree Participant: The Vineyards

From server to restaurant owner, Shannon McConnell has shown that she can do anything she puts her mind to. This determination, she says, stems from her years as a Girl Scout, where she learned about the great sense of accomplishment that comes from working towards goals to earn badges. She has worked in just about every capacity in restaurants since her college days and has now owned The Vineyards, an Italian restaurant located in downtown Norfolk, for two years.

Shannon, who grew up in Atlanta, joined Girl Scouts when she was in third grade. Going on camping trips with her troop and selling Girl Scout Cookies were two of her favorite activities as a Girl Scout.

“I remember the friendly competition in my troop when it came to selling Girl Scout Cookies,” Shannon said. “Girls in my troop would team up, and we would really encourage each other reach our goals.”

Shannon McConnell and Ross Rogers from The Vineyards
Now, Shannon is excited to be reconnect with Girl Scouts, just in time for one of her favorite times of the year—cookie season. The Vineyards, led by Chef Ross Rogers, will be participating in the Girl Scouts of the Colonial Coast’s signature tasting event, Samoa Soiree. At this event, The Vineyards will be one of 20 restaurants competing to make unique desserts and hors d’oeuvres using a Girl Scout Cookie variety as the key ingredient.

Like Shannon, Chef Ross is no stranger to Girl Scouts. His daughters, who are now grown, spent time as Girl Scouts while growing up in the Hampton Roads area, so he knows firsthand the benefits of Girl Scouting. During his years as a Girl Scout dad, Chef Ross helped his daughters throughout the cookie program— hauling cookie boxes, helping them organize all of their orders and supporting their goals. He also took special outdoor and first aid training courses in order to ensure that there were enough volunteers to provide his daughters and their fellow troop members with unique outdoor experiences, including white water canoeing.

Chef Ross, who has been with The Vineyards for 10 months, discovered his true passion for cooking when he lived in Italy for three months while working as a computer tech. He would visit restaurants, enjoy a great meal and then go home to try to recreate the flavors in his own kitchen. With this background experimental and creative cooking, he already has a recipe in mind for Samoa Soiree.

“The training that I’ve gone through in the culinary arts program at Tidewater Community College taught me a lot about taste profiles,” Chef Ross said. “So when thinking about a recipe for Samoa Soiree, I started brainstorming about what foods would pair well with the different Girl Scout Cookies.”

He also says that it takes a lot of experience, research and trial and error to come up with unique recipes. Chef Ross is looking forward to sharing his recipe, which will feature one of the peanut buttery Girl Scout Cookies, at Samoa Soiree.

Everyone is invited to join Girl Scouts for an evening of tasting, live music, dancing and bidding on first-rate silent auction items at the Samoa Soiree on March 7 at the Half Moone Cruise and Celebration Center in Norfolk. Tickets are $60 each and can be purchased here.