Elois Lettley

Junios Smith | May 22nd, 2018
Elois Lettley (Photos by TMF Photography)

Elois Lettley (Photos by TMF Photography)

In 1998, Elois Lettley founded Occasions II Catering in Burlington. Despite having a natural talent towards cooking great meals, she was nervous because she had never done something of quite a magnitude. “I started this with very little restaurant experience,” she said. “I worked in a hospital and a friend of mine knew I had a passion for cooking, so he asked if I would lease a building and start this business. I didn’t know what to expect going in, but nearly 20 years later I’m still here.”

Not only is Elois’s organization still here, it has become a staple in Alamance County. The Burlington-based restaurant was previously a car dealership, but with her drive, Occasions II Catering has become known as a strong staple in the area. The Caswell County native has been able to provide a great soul food experience through the highs and lows. “I love what I do. It’s not as easy as people think and there are a lot of challenges. The hardest thing has been turning my mom and grandmother’s recipes from serving 20 people to 400 while keeping it the same taste. I’m also dealing with budgets and payrolls for others while also trying out different recipes of my own. I’ll let my family test them out first before I put them on the menu for the customers,” she says.

After moving to New York, she found the love of her life George. They were soon married and had two children, Fraizer and Gregory. While their children were beginning to sprout up, they decided to move back to her home of North Carolina. “We came back here to raise our children because the big city wasn’t really working for me. George is originally a native of Wilmington, so it was easy to come back home,” she said.

While in New York, Elois worked full-time for the Bank of Toyko on Wall Street for several years. She also worked part-time at a restaurant called Muffin Burger. Prior to that she didn’t have much experience professionally, other than cooking for her family, friends and church members. This is where she got her first opportunity to work in the food service industry and has been hooked ever since.

Back in North Carolina Elois got a job working at Wachovia Bank in Winston Salem. She then tranisitioned into a skilled nursing role at nursing home before obtaining employment at Alamance Memorial Hospital (now Alamance Regional Hospital). Twelve years later, she answered her calling and opended the doors of Occasions II Catering on Front Street.

Twenty years later Elois and her team is still serving delicious food. “I think one of the reasons we’ve been able to keep our doors open for so long is because we keep the country cooking aspect in focus and offer it at an affordable price,” she says. “Although the menu changes regularly, there are some staples such as fried chicken, corn bread and macaroni and cheese. I try to change up the routine, but the demand for some of the dishes require me to keep them on the buffet. I also have a Soul Food buffet on Friday nights where we offer chitterlings and pig feet, along with my special barbecue sauces. I think there’s a great blend of food here that you don’t see at a lot of other restaurants in the area.”

It took a bit of time to build, but as the reputation grew, so have Occasion’s supporters. “I remember the first Sunday we opened up there were only 30 people who came and I didn’t know what to make of it,” Elois said. “Now, there’s an average of about 500 people who come in and there have been some Sunday’s where we’ll seat about 800 people. We were open for Mother’s Day last year and had about 1,000 people come in, and we’re expecting the same this year.”

The restaurant is able to hold up to 400 people, with the area available to rent for private events. Numerous local organizations host monthly lunch or dinner meetings inside and can be done simultaneously in some cases. The restaurant is closed on Saturday to accommodate for bookings. In addition to Burlington, they’ve also done events in Winston-Salem, Raleigh, Durham, Greensboro and Yanceyville and are fully capable of cooking on site with grills if needed.
Occasions II Catering has been blessed to provide a location to host weddings, banquets, dinner parties and family reunions. With great food and customer service the future looks just as promising in the years to come. Stop by today and treat yourself to the wonderful Occasions II experience

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