Editor’s Note: A new feature of The Hub, “Following The Leaders” will profile a different Williston business owner each month in a Q&A format.By Steven Frank Observer staff
Chef Jozef Harrewyn has cooked up something new.
But this time, the result doesn’t come in the form of a tasty pastry or sandwich. After 15 years of exclusivity in Williston, the 59-year-old native of Belgium has expanded his Chef’s Corner café and bakery to a second location in Burlington’s south end.
Appropriately called “Chef’s Corner — South End,” the café opened last week in the FlynnDog Gallery on Flynn Avenue. The facility houses several businesses and approximately 300 employees. Jozef’s wife, Pam Harrewyn, decorated the 800-square-foot space that she described as “cozy.” She and Scott Sorrell, a former culinary student of Jozef Harrewyn who is now co-owner, run the Burlington operation. Jozef Harrewyn will continue to run the daily operation in Williston.
Next week, he embarks on a seven-day journey to South Africa with his two adult sons. Harrewyn, a member of the 1984 South African Junior Olympic Culinary team, will reunite with family and teammates.
In between the opening of his newest café and cross-global trip, Harrewyn sat down with the Williston Observer to discuss the local tradition Chef’s Corner has established and what patrons can expect in Burlington.
Williston Observer: Tell me a little bit about the new location.
Jozef Harrewyn: To be honest, when we first looked at it, we didn’t know what we were going to do with it. It’s an open space. The landlords — the Farrington family — were really keen on having us in there. We finally decided to do it. With the Farrington’s construction and architectural knowledge, they took us by the hand and helped us. That, along with my wife’s interior designing skills, they were able to transform it into a really nice place. We’ve kept it very local. All the woodwork is Vermont recycled barn wood. The guy who made our tables (Roger Adkins) does it from the wood on his land (in East Fairfield). It’s like a rustic bistro.
WO: The owners are the same and the name is almost the same. In terms of offerings, is the one in Burlington like the one in Williston?
JH: The food is the same, except it’s a reduced version. We can’t use any open flame (in Burlington). That restricts us. The menu has been devised around that and it’s been really nice. The pastries we have are smaller but people can still order cakes and have them delivered. Other bakery items that aren’t (in Burlington) can also be ordered. One of the things we have (in Burlington) that we don’t have (in Williston) is a breakfast buffet. It’s a six-foot refrigerated case that will have granola, yogurt, pineapple and fresh strawberries. It’ll be sold by weight. Then, for lunch, we have a salad bar. Every item we have there is $8 and under.
WO: I know it’s early but are you happy with how things are going so far?
JH: Extremely. I think because of the teamwork of the Farrington family, it’s turned out to be an incredible space. Then, from there, the Chef’s Corner team has taken over with the knowledge of the food. In our industry, the first thing you need is knowledge. The second thing you need is experience. The third thing you need is the right employees. Then, you need hard work. We currently have the best team we’ve had in 15 years.
WO: During those 15 years, Chef’s Corner has become very well known. How did you get to this point?
JH: Hard work, hard work, hard work. Scott, my wife and I work an average of 70 hours a week. It’s part of the formula. We love what we’re doing. Everyone needs to get credit. It’s not just me. Scott came on board four years ago. He is 34-years-old and brings a young energy. He is amazing. I would not have opened the new place without him. My wife has also been terrific.
WO: Tell me a little about your culinary background.
JH: I have been doing it all my life. My father was a chef. I was born in Belgium and immigrated to South Africa when I was 8-years-old. I’m a pastry chef and a baker by trade but I cooked during my younger days when I apprenticed with my dad (at his restaurant in South Africa) … When I was in Chicago working for Four Seasons (Hotels and Resorts), I was offered the chance to teach at the New England Culinary Institute. That’s what brought me to Vermont. This happened 19 years ago. I’ve now lived longer in America than anywhere else (24 years).
WO: Do you like Williston?
JH: I love it. I just love Vermont. My wife and my sons, who are 27 and 29, and I, we all feel very privileged to be living here.
WO: I understand you will soon be returning to South Africa. What does that trip entail?
JH: In 1984, I was on the South African national chef team to go to the World Olympics in Munich, Germany, which is every four years — like the Olympics for sports. The first team was in 1980 and there was another one in 1988. What they’re doing is a reunion and an award dinner for those three teams. It’s also a part-fundraiser for the Junior Chefs of South Africa. We’re actually going to cook what we cooked for the World Olympics … But I’m not going for the award. I’m going for the experience, to see my teammates, and spend time with my sons. They are so psyched.