Married veterans go from serving their country to serving up Southern food in Virginia

Juicy brisket served at C&E Southern Bites restaurant in Sterling, Virginia. (Courtesy C&E Southern Bites Restaurant)
Cheryl and Evans Swinson in front of their restaurant, C&E Southern Bites, in Sterling, Virginia. (Courtesy C&E Southern Bites Restaurant)
Grilled ribs from C&E Southern Bites restaurant in Sterling, Virginia. (Courtesy C&E Southern Bites Restaurant)
A to go platter from C&E Southern Bites restaurant in Sterling, Virginia. (Courtesy C&E Southern Bites Restaurant)

A married couple, both military veterans, have embarked on a new mission together by opening their own business serving traditional Southern food in Loudoun County, Virginia.

“It was just a hobby for stress relief,” said Evans Swinson, a Navy veteran.

At least, that’s how Swinson initially felt about cooking.

Now, it is a lifestyle, with Swinson working at his Sterling business, C & E Southern Bites Restaurant, about 14 or 15 hours every day.

“It really doesn’t bother me because that’s what I was trained to do in the military,” Swinson said. “It’s just a part of me, and it’s never going to leave.”

Swinson served in the Navy from 1986 to 1997, including in the 1991 Operation Desert Storm, the U.S.-led campaign to repel Iraq from Kuwait.

“I think it was one of the things that shaped me,” Swinson said. “It was about leadership and learning how to actually work hard, and that’s a big thing we do in this restaurant.”

Swinson’s wife, Cheryl, is a veteran who served as a nurse in the Air Force.

“I find that the military teaches you teamwork and collaboration and how to actually take criticism,” Cheryl said. “It helps you to be a more well-rounded person.”

The first experience Evans Swinson had with cooking for a crowd was when he would bring food to community parties hosted by his neighbors.

It was such a hit that many of them urged him to start his own restaurant.

“I didn’t know it was going to be something I was going to turn into a business until one of the neighbors said, ‘The only reason I come here is because I know you can bring something good,'” Swinson said, laughing.

He decided to look into it, eventually launching a food truck business.

It was a success.

“After a while I said, ‘You know what? I’m going to try my hand at a restaurant because the food truck was pretty popular,'” Swinson said.

Swinson’s 21-year-old daughter and 19-year-old son help out at the business, too, serving up fried catfish, barbecue, gumbo, collard greens and other homemade southern specialties.

“Nothing comes out of a can,” Swinson said. “I’ve had some people talk to me in the business trying to convince me that there’s an easier way, but it just doesn’t taste the same.”

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Nick Iannelli

Nick Iannelli can be heard covering developing and breaking news stories on WTOP.

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