This unique Sarasota brunch experience will leave you singing, dancing, and with a full stomach

There can be a wide range of emotions that Bill and Ellen Cornelius see when people walk in: Some are screaming in delight with their hands in the air. Some clap and shake their heads in rhythm.

Others begin to shed tears, whether of joy or relief that a weight has been lifted from their shoulders.

Almost everyone smiles after filling their bellies with a wide array of authentic southern dishes.

It’s all part of an experience so unique at the Blue Rooster in Sarasota, Florida, that Bill Cornelius – who, along with Ellen, owns the place – said a top international newspaper gave him the praise.

“One of the major newspapers in London, England said it was the second best thing about Sarasota,” Bill Cornelius said. “The newspaper said (nearby) Siesta Key Beach was the best thing.”

Stand out in a gourmet household

People line up for the gospel brunch buffet at the Blue Rooster in Sarasota, Florida. Photo by Keith Dunlap (GMG)

That “second best thing,” Cornelius said, is a Sunday meal he and Ellen host at their restaurant that’s anything but a typical brunch experience.

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Known as the “gospel brunch buffet”, it’s a weekly gathering (except in the summer when it’s bi-weekly or monthly) that can best be described as a combination of two old-school staples of a traditional Sunday: a energetic church service and tasteful home cooking.

About 200 people pack the Blue Rooster every Sunday — a jazz and blues establishment Bill and Ellen Cornelius bought and remodeled in 2012 when they moved to Sarasota after spending three decades in Northville, Michigan, working in the auto industry for Ford Motor Company – to enjoy music and food.

Even for an area of ​​Sarasota praised by many for having one of the most exquisite and diverse sets of restaurants in the country, it’s a Sunday spot and occasion that still stands out.

The gospel brunch buffet has been around since 2013, born out of an experience when Bill and Ellen Cornelius attended the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta.

While eating at brunch with their two sons, the couple heard a waitress sing happy birthday to someone and were immediately captivated.

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“The young woman told us that she only sings at church and to friends at restaurants,” Bill Cornelius said. “We had never heard anyone sing so well and we never forgot the experience. It was a moment of pure bliss.”

What does the gospel brunch buffet consist of?

The spread is an array of lunch and breakfast dishes with a southern twist, such as scrambled eggs, bacon, waffles, collard greens, salads, catfish fritters, macaroni with cheese, a southern style stew, fried chicken, mashed potatoes, fruit and fries. green tomatoes.

Entertainment is provided by an authentic four-member gospel band called “Truality”, who sing traditional and modern gospel worship songs.

“The band members are very spiritual people, and anyone who hears them sing knows that they are sincere in their beliefs about the message they convey through the song,” said Bill Cornelius.

Brunch is split into two sessions, one in the late morning where food starts being served at 11:30 a.m. and music starts at noon.

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Around 1:00 p.m. the group takes a break, the clients of the morning session leave, then other people arrive for the afternoon session which lasts from 1:30 to 2:30.

At the moment, the cost of brunch is $24.95.

But so often, it’s a priceless experience for those who leave, after singing, laughing, dancing and even crying.

“Most people love the experience of attending brunch and thank us for allowing them to have this special experience,” said Bill Cornelius.

Photo by Keith Dunlap (GMG)

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