While many saw the coronavirus pandemic as a shaky time to open a new restaurant, Chef Mark Eastman saw it as a golden opportunity.
The chef and owner behind Chefs’ Haven, a gourmet grocery store in Hockessin, has expanded with a new café of the same name in Wilmington’s Independence Mall, located at 1601 Concord Pike.
The original Chefs’ Haven has been open for 12 years, providing gourmet chocolate, cheese, charcuterie, and coffee, along with cooking classes for all levels of expertise. However, as many businesses in the food industry struggle to adjust to the restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic, Eastman had to discontinue his cooking classes to maintain safety precautions put in place by the CDC.
With no idea when classes can begin again, Eastman knew it was the right time to expand to a second location with more of a café spin.
The original Chefs’ Haven will currently operate as a market because of the cancelled classes, selling breads, cheeses, pastries, and more. While Chefs’ Haven Café serves a wide variety of breakfast and lunch items including a coffee bar. All the dishes are made with fresh ingredients, with some available at the Hockessin market.
“We’re focusing more on local, fresh, light, and everything being made here – we do breakfast sandwiches, we do house meat. I cure and smoke my own pastrami, corn beef, and our house made hash,” Eastman says.
The menu consists of eggs benedict of multiple varieties, breakfast bowls, sandwiches, omelets, mahi tuna, smoked turkey, chili, huevos rancheros and more. The café also offers vegetarian options.
Despite the limitation of only 60 percent capacity for indoor dinning, Chefs’ Haven Café can seat guests who want to dine indoors, outdoors or enjoy takeout. Social distancing, face masks, and temperature checks are being implemented as a precaution.
“Everybody’s wearing masks, everybody’s social distancing in the dining room, and we can still seat 14 people in the dining room at this point.” Eastman says.
While the café has only been open since late September, Eastman is already adjusting the menu to meet customers’ needs.
People are asking, ‘Can I get half a sandwich with some soup?.’” Eastman explains. “Sure! They asked for fresh tuna, so I now have that. It’s a learning process right now to see what the people want, and I am going to give them what they want.”
The menu can be expected to change with the seasons but will maintain a full breakfast and lunch menu.
However, dinner will not be on the menu.
“I have been there and done that and have done everything, so I don’t want to work late nights anymore. Doing just breakfast and lunch is something I’ve always wanted to do,” he says.
Eastman has been in the food industry for over 30 years. His experience includes catering for celebrities like Marilyn Manson and Aerosmith and has worked for Brasserie Perrier and as the executive chef at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center. Eastman credits his passion for cooking and baking to his mother for her ongoing support of his love for the art.
“COVID is tough for starting a restaurant, but I am one of those people where I can’t just stop moving. So, when something is offered to me, and even though it’s COVID, I know it’s going to be over with eventually but if I can offer a quality product at a reasonable price for the people then that’s what I want to do,” he says.
Hours for the café are 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, Sunday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. It is closed on Mondays.
Chef’s Haven; 1601 Concord Pike, Wilmington; 434-6675; chefshavende.com