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Local slices up a 'pizza' history

By Marissa Stipek
On March 11, 2014

Butler County resident Glenn Allen Davis recently won Mellow Mushroom's Homegrown Challenge contest for his original calzone recipe, which will be featured on the chain's March menu and which won him $1,000 and a trip to the company headquarters in Atlanta.

Mellow Mushroom is a restaurant specializing in pizza, but focused on offering simple, delicious food. Founded in 1974, they focus on a laid-back environment and unique dishes made with fresh ingredients.

The Homegrown Challenge contest was created based on the belief that everyone has a special recipe to share. Employees of franchises nationwide were encouraged to participate, though managers were not allowed to enter.

Davis works at the West Chester Mellow Mushroom, located about 40 minutes from Oxford. West Chester manager Phil Leisure said this was the first year of what will become an annual contest.

The categories were as follows: pizza, calzone, hoagie, salad and cocktail. Leisure said the West Chester store submitted an entry in every category.

Davis won the calzone category with his chicken cordon bleu concept.

"Each final contestant made their recipe for panel of judges, and the overall winner got $1,000. Glenn finished second overall," Leisure said.

Davis, who has been working at Mellow Mushroom just over a year, said he thought of the idea while working at the restaurant.

"Talk about the contest had been going around, and lots of fellows in the kitchen here are passionate about cooking," Davis said. "They had been teaching me a lot. I blurted out the cordon bleu calzone idea and my boss loved it."

Submissions were emailed to the corporate office, located in Atlanta. About six weeks later, Davis got the news he had won.

From there, he and the other winners were flown to the Atlanta headquarters for a weekend of VIP treatment.

"They took us out to dinner at an extravagant Mexican restaurant and it was wonderful," Davis said. "They put us up at the W hotel, which had a valet. Everyone knew your name. It was the closest I have ever come to feeling like a celebrity!"

Davis said he really enjoyed the experience and getting to see Atlanta.

"I never wanted to leave," Davis said.

Throughout the month of March, a menu of winning items from each category is available at Mellow Mushroom Stores nationwide.

Leisure said all the homegrown menu items have been popular, but Davis's calzone has been the most popular at the West Chester location specifically.

Davis is excited to see people try his dish.

"It's been really touching," Davis said. "I had a woman ask me to sign her menu. Without them [the customers], this wouldn't be worth anything."

Davis is also grateful to his company.

"I've gotten to meet [Mellow Mushroom] people from North Carolina, Kentucky, Colorado, and there are nice people from everywhere. Mellow Mushroom has been a great company and I plan on being here along time."

With people becoming more health-conscious in recent years, there is a growing market for local food. According to Leisure, Mellow Mushroom offers two specialty menus other restaurants might not: a gluten-free menu and a vegan menu. "We are constantly redeveloping menus here, but those two have been on the forefront since we opened," Leisure said.

This fresh, creative menu is what draws many customers to Mellow Mushroom. Miami University sophomore Allison Van Horn said she loved her experience at a Mellow Mushroom in Nashville, Tenn.

"The environment was cool-it was kind of 70s and psychedelic, and the waiters were really nice," Van Horn said. "We got spinach and artichoke dip and a white pizza with sundried tomatoes.The pizza was really fresh!"

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