Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Chef’s Express moves

Bill McMullen and Steve Stefanides were among the last customers at this location. Photos by Val Simon

Bill McMullen and Steve Stefanides were among the last customers at this location. Photos by Val Simon

An institution at the Shops of Old Marco, The Chef’s Express,  has moved to the South End of the island and are awaiting permit approval to open. The colorful sails, outdoor tables and colorful umbrellas and other distinctive touches are gone. Regular patrons expressed their disappointment. On the last day of business, we heard from a few of their customers. Bill McMullen said, “It’s a lost opportunity!  In a depressed economy all businesses owners should be given every opportunity to expand.”  Steve Stefanides had just two words, “A shame.” Even Brad and Paula Carlson visiting from Minneapolis with their children, Sarah and Maddie, said “we thoroughly enjoyed it!” Of course they were totally oblivious to the fact they were among the last to dine at Chef’s Express at this location. Also among the last,  Michelle Hay and Janet Carpenter said, “it’s just as good now as the first time we ate here!  The Chef’s Express is the best!”

As neighbors,  we had a bird’s eye view of Anne Feinman and her daughter Lauren, and all the others that made The Chef’s Express, The Chef’s Express. Anne is one of the hardest working people we know. She puts every ounce  of energy into what she does. Her effort has been rewarded by the loyalty of many patrons. Visitors enjoyed saying hello to proprietors after they dined. We’ve seen the restaurant filled up,  the breezeway filled and the counter filled when Anne gave a cooking class. Employees hopping around this place like crazy filling every request a diner may have! A day did not go by that there wasn’t a familiar face visiting the restaurant. Time and time again,  you’d hear, “I didn’t know this place existed.”  In some ways,  it doesn’t anymore.

There are still plenty of vibrant businesses

The Carlson family was happy to have lunch at Chef’s Express.

The Carlson family was happy to have lunch at Chef’s Express.

here.  In the Light Gallery, Lee Be Fish, the Artists Co-op, Simply Cupcakes,  just to name a few! There are even more on the way! However, it will be awhile before anyone will have the captive audience which Anne and Chef’s Express built and nurtured. One guest came this season to have lunch with a friend. After his meal, he stopped at another table to chat with friends. Then he moved to another group to greet even more acquaintances and then on to another. Before he left the patio he had visited half the tables in the courtyard. He must have had time to spare because he was here for several hours!  Remember the TV sitcom Cheers with Ted Danson, ‘ where everyone knows your name?’

Anne has left some big shoes to fill at the Shops of Old Marco. She has been flourishing at this location for more than six years. It will not be an easy task. It’s difficult to leave behind a labor of love to which you have dedicated all your time and talent. Anne is already drawing resolve from family, friends and loyal patrons who know that Chef’s Express is anywhere Anne is cooking and seeing to her guests.

For those of you who love The Chef’s Express, you can still visit and enjoy your favorite dishes as soon as the City completes the permitting process. Head on down to the Beach Club. “We look forward to seeing you in our new place,” Anne tells her guests. You’ll see the colorful sunshades from Collier Boulevard already set-up, waiting for the opening.

Anne, never fear, your patrons will find you! A toast to you for starting something ‘with a fresh perspective’.

Oh yes,  readers, you’ll still find Anne’s column right here in Coastal Breeze News every other edition!

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