April 25, 2018

Turning a corner

Observer photo by Jason Starr
Scott Sorrell, left , and Josef Harrewyn, of Chef’s Corner are looking forward to launching dinner service this spring.

After a successful move, Chef’s Corner contemplates evening service

By Jason Starr

Observer staff

Two thousand seventeen was a monumental year for Williston’s venerable café Chef’s Corner. Big plans are also in the works for 2018.

In August, after 20 years at its old Essex Road location next to Lenny’s Shoe & Apparel, co-owners Jozef Harrewyn and Scott Sorrell moved the operation across town, to Cornerstone Drive, in a shared plaza that already had top-notch eating options like the Williston Coffee Shop and Vermont Meat & Seafood Market.

It took a $500,000 investment to transform a space that formerly housed an art supply and framing shop into a high-volume café and catering operation. Business has picked up where it left off, the co-owners said, serving breakfast, lunch and afternoon fare to a loyal fan base and attracting new customers in the higher traffic location. But Sorrell has designs on dinner service, an idea the co-owners have floated for years but have never found the right time to make happen.

Sorrell, who was a student of Harrewyn when Harrewyn was a teacher at the New England Culinary Institute, comes from an evening dining background. He joined Chef’s Corner 10 years ago after Harrewyn’s original founding partner Rene Ball retired.

After the move in August, the pair planned to jump right into dinner service and have it running by October. They then got word from their architect that expanding their hours of operation into the evening would mean a new one-time sewer fee to the Town of Williston. The $19,000 up-front fee, so closely following the half-million dollar investment to renovate the space, was too steep.

Pointing to their track record of success in the town, Sorrell and Harrewyn went before the Williston Selectboard earlier this month, imploring board members to agree to let them pay the fee over a 12-month period. But, without an ordinance change, the board was unable to grant the request.

Sorrell and Harrewyn are interested in having the ordinance changed to benefit future businesses, but they are prepared now, after gaining traction at the new location, to front the $19,000 and launch dinner service this spring.

“We are going to do our best to make it happen,” Sorrell said.

Serving dinner would mean hiring a new crew of servers and kitchen staff and extending hours until roughly 9 p.m. The business currently closes at 4 p.m. most days.

“Night time is a whole other kettle of fish,” Harrewyn said. “It’s another business within a business.”

The plan is to offer dinner service four nights a week, Wednesday through Saturday, with new menu items as well as some carry over from the mid-day menu. It will be an order-at-the-counter operation — like their breakfast and lunch service — with patrons getting numbers to take to tables and servers bringing out their orders.

Expanding into dinner will mean about 12 new employees, Sorrell said.

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