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January 31, 2023

Stafford’s Market & Deli

Drew restaurant gets a new chef

By Angela Rogalski

The Bolivar Bullet

Stafford’s Market & Deli in Drew opened May 1, 2005, so in a few months the restaurant will be celebrating its 16th anniversary. Owner Stafford Shurden  said if that  wasn’t exciting enough, the restaurant is getting a new chef very soon with the upcoming arrival of professional Chef Bennett Lewis.

“Bennett will start with us very soon and we are super excited to welcome him onboard,” said Shurden. “Bennett attended Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Chicago and has worked for Dickie Brennan, Bourbon House and Palace Café, all in New Orleans, so he definitely has excellent experience. But when COVID hit, he was working for a large catering company and unfortunately was laid off.”

Shurden  said that unfortunately with COVID-19, his restaurant and catering business was also affected.

“We really didn’t get to celebrate our 15th anniversary at all with COVID. And, our catering business stopped altogether, which was about 40% of our business. We have had to limit our hours, so we’re open Tuesday through Friday, 11:00 a.m. until 1:30 p.m. for lunch,” Shurden added. “We hope we can soon expand our hours, but we’re waiting to see.”

During the pandemic, Shurden said they had to make certain adjustments. 

“We started doing some marketing things; we call it retailing in the restaurant business. So, instead of selling you a meal, we were retailing things like steak, deli meats, pies; we were cooking all kinds of items that we wouldn’t normally do just to get through COVID. And there have been some great customers out there who found new ways to support us during this with our curbside and delivery, our dining room was closed, but we weren’t closed. I was even open during the recent snowstorm; I had my 14-year-old daughter helping me. Customers would stop by in their 4-wheel drives and pick up five plates for everybody and we appreciated it. The community is the only reason we’re here. They have supported us through everything.”

With Chef Lewis starting soon, Shurden hopes to expand his hours to five days a week and maybe open one night per week for the dinner crowd, but he said that’s still up in the air.

Stafford’s serves deli sandwiches, salads and has a Blue Plate special with a meat and potatoes every day. But, with Chef Lewis coming in, Shurden said he’s going to give him a little leeway with the menu.

“We’ll keep our same deli sandwich theme with our Blue Plate specials, but I want him to put add some things to the menu that suits his personality and cooking style. I asked him what was his favorite thing to cook and he said Jambalaya and I think that would be a great Blue Plate. And, one of Chef James Beard’s favorite things was a sandwich, and people may underestimate how creative you can be between two slices of bread. So, it will be interesting to see what Bennett brings to the table and he’s excited about it and ready to have some fun with it.”

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