Chatham Food Hub: Root Cellar

The Chatham Food Hub project emerged at a time when it was most needed. Led by Eleanor Wertman, MPH (Program Manager, Community Health at UNC Health Alliance | Population Health Services), it is a significant and innovative project melding food, drink, chefs, and community. Our hospitality businesses (caterers, restaurateurs, chefs, farmers) will serve guests Wednesdays in Siler City at Bray Park this summer.

Our Chatham Food Hub series profiles all the charter members of this drive-through food court, with pre-orders taken online.

Root Cellar Café & Catering is among our first restaurants to join the Hub. Learn more about Chef Sera Cuni and the team, their love of food and community, and their spirit of working together. 

How long have you been in business?
Although our name is still fairly new, The Root Cellar Café & Catering has been firmly anchored within the Chapel Hill, NC, community since 1998 when Chef and Cookbook Author Sara Foster first opened the restaurant as Foster’s Market, an expansion of her original Durham location. Current owners Sera Cuni and her wife, Susan White, purchased the Chapel Hill business from Sara Foster in 2013 and rebranded the restaurant to The Root Cellar in 2014. The couple opened their second location in Pittsboro in late 2017.

Where are you from?
Root Cellar Chef Sera Cuni was born in Trumbull, Connecticut, although her family moved during her childhood, making new homes in California and Florida before finally moving to North Carolina. Susan White, the restaurant’s marketing manager, is a native to Chatham County and was born and raised in Siler City.

Share with us details about your menu and offerings.
The Root Cellar specializes in scratch-made sandwiches, soups, salads, comfort foods, desserts and locally roasted coffees. From the beginning – back to our

early restaurant roots – our business has focused on simple delicious food that emphasizes quality locally sourced ingredients as much as possible. We love what we do because of the creativity of food – you can create so many different dishes with just a few ingredients. We especially love how food has the ability to bring diverse  communities together to share with one another and to learn from one another.

Why did you choose to open a business in Chatham County?We chose to open our second location in Chatham because Pittsboro is home for us, and we really wanted a place within our own community that would enable us to give back to this community.

After growing tired of Connecticut’s cold winters, Sera moved to North Carolina in 2000 to be closer to her parents, who were living in Apex at the time. Shortly after the move, she was hired at Fearrington Village, first at the former market and later at The Fearrington House Restaurant as a sous chef.Susan lived in Chatham County for much of her life. She was born in the old Chatham Hospital in 1967 and lived in Siler City until she graduated from Jordan Matthews High School and left for college in 1986. After living for eight years in Virginia, she moved back to North Carolina in 2008 and a year later, into the Powell Place community in Pittsboro, where she and Sera still live.

We settled here because of the beauty of the county and the opportunities we knew we would have here, the desire to be near our parents and extended family and because we love living and working within our own community.

What would you do if you were not in your current industry?
Hahathis one is easy for Sera. She would work for the N.C. Zoo as an otter trainer. She is obsessed with otters – sea and river – and would love nothing more than to run away with a den of them one day. Having worked as a writer most of her life, Susan has often dreamed of being a filmmaker.

Favorite food, beverage, and season? And why?
We LOVE food that you can find off the beaten path – doesn’t matter the cuisine. When we vacation, we’re always in search of what the locals eat, including the dive bars and little mom and pop restaurants. These places always serve up the tastiest dishes.

Any information you want to share with our guests?
Quality matters to us because we know it matters to our customers. We believe the best food comes from within our own community, and we strive to use seasonal ingredients from North Carolina farmers and local producers whenever possible. Everything we serve is prepared fresh daily. We take great pride in:

  • Roasting in-house all of our turkeys, chickens, and pork
  • Grinding our own hamburger and sausage meats and
  • Using seasonal vegetables from local farmers, when possible, in all of our signature dishes

Why did you join the Hub?We joined the Hub because we saw an opportunity to work with a group of partners that are  trying to support small businesses and strengthen the local economy and community as much as possible. The repercussions of this pandemic have been far reaching for so many, including  small businesses that truly depend on customer support to survive and thrive. Our partnership with the Hub is also our way of giving back to the community we love.

About the Hub
Contact us for details about contributing to the Chatham Food Hub. Special thanks to Eleanor Wertman, Program Manager, Community Health, UNC Health Alliance | Population Health Services and The Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention. All vendors are encouraged to join the Count On Me NC initiative, a joint effort created by government and health officials in partnership with industry leaders from across the state.


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