Blue Ginger sushi restaurant, vendors gear up for Summer Series at TIEC

Published 10:00 pm Monday, June 22, 2015

A new sushi restaurant, located along the vendors’ courtyard across from the Legends Club and Grand Prix ring at the Tryon International Equestrian Center, will be swimming with visitors to the center with the beginning of the Summer Series this week.

The Summer Series is an event spanning four weeks at the equestrian center, entitled “Saturday Night Lights”, where grand prix races will be held every Saturday evening starting June 27 and ending on July 18. Gates to the center will open at 5:30 p.m. and the races will start at 6:30.

Blue Ginger Sushi, owned by TIEC owner Mark Bellissimo and operated by head chef James DuBose and his assistant Raymond Haje, has been open to the public since the $210,000 Tryon Grand Prix race at the center on June 6.

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DuBose, 37, and a native of Savannah, Ga., has been rolling up sushi and perfecting his craft internationally for the past 11 and a half years.

“I was essentially asked to come do sushi here when Mark was able to find me through one of my old general managers since I was a sous chef at PF Chang’s where I basically trained everyone how to roll sushi,” DuBose explained. “My major was French cuisine and pastries from the New York Culinary University. I got to intern in Paris for eight months and then I came back to the states before owning my own restaurant in Atlanta.”

In preparation for the equestrian center’s Summer Series, DuBose is putting his final touches on the restaurant’s new menu while also awaiting the influx of attendees during the series.

“We’re currently revamping the menu and trying to get it simplified with more rolls added to the selection in time for the series next week,” DuBose announced. “The first week we’re expected to see about 900 horses here and so you have to multiply that by an average of three to four people per horse. Then the following week, we’ll probably see 1,300 and the number will continue to grow throughout the summer. I’m excited, but I think it will be overwhelming more than anything.”

What makes the sushi restaurant so attractive, according to DuBose, is that it is an amenity to the center that cannot be found anywhere nearby.

DuBose uses the Mahalo Seafood Company based out of Charlotte as his supplier of fresh ingredients and fish for the restaurant and even consulted with them while his business was operational in Atlanta.

His most popular menu item at Blue Ginger is the Wellington roll, which consists of fried salmon rolled with red onions and avocado. The restaurant will be open Wednesday through Sunday during horse shows.

“I think this place is seen as an amenity to the center more than anything else,” DuBose said. “We have a prime location between the two main arenas on either side so people can sit and get a good view of what’s happening and all of the food I make here is top quality, moderately priced and personally handcrafted. Also, you won’t have to go up to Hendersonville or Asheville or down to Greenville to get sushi if you’re here.”

Aside from the sushi restaurant, a number of vendors are also open to the public during the horse shows at the equestrian center.

Most of the vendors seen near the grand prix ring rent the lots on the grounds of the center on a weekly basis, according to Annette Compson-Goyette, who is responsible for overseeing the vendors who intend to rent the lots for shops at the center.

Some vendors, like Blue Ginger Sushi, are open year-round because they are owned by Bellissimo and TIEC rather than by a third-party entity such as the Skyuka Art Gallery or Lake Lure Chiropractor companies.

However, according to Community Relationships Director Molly Oakman, there are a few new vendors as well as a beer festival scheduled to open with the beginning of the Summer Series.

“We already have Roger’s Diner, the Legends Grille and Tryon Cafe open to the public during the horse shows. Next week we are scheduled to open Tryon Treats, which will have frozen yogurt, candy and cupcakes and we are also in the process of opening Blue Monkey Coffee Roasters, which will feature our own coffee bar with beans roasted on site. That’s scheduled to open next week as well,” Oakman said. “A beer festival will also be run simultaneously with those grand prix events and we will sell tickets online prior to the events.”

Oakman said she thinks the addition of the new facilities benefits the center by adding more options to the public.

Catering to the crowds with more options is the main reason why there needs to be a wide array of options, Oakman explained.

“At our last event, we estimated over 11,000 people so we have to work to facilitate those people and the needs of the crowd at our events and we plan to have events for those large crowds so we need to have our own food and beverage shops.”

“I think it’s creating more of a year-round daily facility since we’re primarily seasonal at the moment,” Oakman remarked. “As you can see with Roger’s Diner, that place is busy seven days a week and a large majority with the general public. There aren’t a lot of restaurant options between the Columbus exit and the Forest City exit on 74 so this has become somewhat a central hub for eating for this local community.”

By Michael O’Hearn