In Morristown, what stood as Tim Schafer’s Cuisine for nearly 20 years is now Chef Fredy’s Table.
After Tim Schafer moved south in 2005 to open a restaurant in North Carolina, his longtime employees, Fredy Umanzor and Nestor Bedoya, bought the business, continuing to run it as chef and general manager, as before.
“At the time it made sense to keep the name, it was just an easier transition,” says Bedoya who started there as a bus boy when he was 14.
Now, at 32, he is in charge of the dining room and feels it is time to give credit where due.
The old, well-worn awning came down a couple weeks ago. Fredy’s name went up, the dining room got a sprucing and the menu was revamped.
Whereas Schafer was known for inventive signature dishes, including several prepared with beer, only the Guinness-spiked barbeque sauce remains. Schaefer featured duck and ostrich; Umanzor has taken the wild game game to the next level, preparing quail, alligator, venison, buffalo and even kangaroo.
The change at Andre’s in Newton was more subtle. It’s now called Dre’s.
Dre’s, says chef/owner Andre deWaal, suggests “casual and not super expensive.Tthat’s what our town needs, and what our customers are looking for.”
DeWaal asks fans of the former white tablecloth, special-occasion Andre’s to be patient, He says he and his wife, Tracey, are hunting for a new location for the more formal style and menu that have earned them a loyal following the last 15 years.
Dre’s features a more rustic interior with hardwood floors and handcrafted wood plank tables, as well as a bistro-style menu of pizzas, pastas, seafood, burgers and steaks. Still, deWaal admits, popular demand prevents him from removing certain popular items like the duck penne. "It just can’t come off the menu,” he says.
“We have the same commitment to using local and organic whenever possible," deWaal says. "Everything is still homemade, but instead of changing every two weeks, the menu will change maybe six times a year.”
At Chef Fredy’s Table, Bedoya started talking up the transition on social media more than a year ago.
Because there was no change in ownership, “we were able to keep all our reviews on Yelp, Tripadvisor and Google,” explains Bedoya. “We’re not starting with a blank page.”
Nevertheless, he has seen an influx of customers curious to see what’s new.
The deWaals have been discussing the change for years, but were never able to find the perfect location to carry on Andre’s. “We decided," deWaal says, "it was time to be proactive,” adopting a just-do-it attitude.
So far, they have seen their customer count doubling and bringing their families for the new, relaxed ambiance and kid-friendly menu items like natural chicken fingers with housemade bread crumbs.
“But I’m not gonna lie,” deWaa lsays, “there are still people chomping at the bit for the new Andre’s restaurant.”
The two restaurants have rebranded for different reasons, but so far they are happy with the results.
SUZANNE ZIMMER LOWERY is a food writer, pastry chef and culinary instructor at a number of New Jersey cooking schools. Find out more about her at suzannelowery.com.Click here to leave a comment