Todd Cooper, head chef at Benson Stone Company’s Hearthrock Café, used the COVID-19 shutdown to improve his menu, install new kitchen equipment, deep clean, resurface the café floor and do lots of planning.
“The nice thing about time off is you can do things you need to do during regular business hours in a more relaxed way,” he says. “You can tackle the tough jobs that are necessary, while thinking about cooking and serving, which is what we all really enjoy.”
A new panini press and flat grill made it possible to add four new sandwiches to the menu, including The Cuban, Tuna Melt, Cordon Bleu and a mushroom and muenster Cheese Roast Beef sandwich.
Cooper also is working on perfecting an adult grilled cheese made with smoked gouda and muenster cheeses and a special sauce. Customers choose their breads and add-ons, like tomato, bacon or mushrooms.
Breakfast items, including bacon and eggs, are also new.
“In recent years, I’ve had so many requests for bacon and eggs and now we have the capability to do it,” he says.
When the abrupt shutdown in March was extended through April, Cooper made good use of his food inventory. What he couldn’t save or freeze, he sold to employees who were faced with empty meat counters and high grocery prices.
Then he went to work “gutting” the café to do a deep clean and make improvements.
Business is booming, he says.
“By the first of July, every table was filled for lunch.”
Hearthrock Café is open from 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays. ❚