GRAND RAPIDS, MI — Chef Matthew Overdevest is ready to get back in the kitchen.
A month after the coronavirus pandemic forced him to permanently close his high-end Grand Rapids restaurant, Marcona sur Lyon, Overdevest is set to launch a new culinary adventure that he says is well suited to the new world of social distancing.
Steadfast Supper Club is a small catering company designed to bring a premium dining experience directly to the customer’s home.
“People always want to celebrate with food,” said Overdevest, an Ada resident who has worked in the restaurant industry for 25 years. “This opportunity allows me to come and provide this service in a comfortable and safe environment.”
Designed to serve up to 12 guests, Steadfast is suitable for birthdays, graduations, anniversaries and dinner parties. Overdevest works with guests to plan the theme and menu for the evening, deciding everything from appetizers and main courses to wine and dessert.
On the day of the meal, he will arrive at a client’s house a few hours early and, after setting the table and doing other preparations, prepare and cook dinner.
Overdevest says his cooking skills are vast and he can do everything from Mediterranean to Italian to Asian cuisine.
It’s not cheap. A four-course meal is $80 per person, while a six-course meal is priced at $100 per person. There is a minimum charge of $450 for the evening.
But for those looking for an exceptional dining experience — and can afford it — the price is worth it, says Overdevest.
“You get a full personalized experience,” he said. “Their hire of a chef for the evening with 25 years of experience. You are buying a much more experienced professional in this environment.
Although Overdevest is excited about its new venture, it comes at a difficult time. Earlier this month he announced that he was permanent closure of Marcona in Lyon, the upscale Mediterranean restaurant he opened in October 2018 in the Heritage Hill neighborhood of Grand Rapids.
Overdevest said it offered takeout for about a week in March after Governor Gretchen Whitmer, as part of her stay-at-home order, banned restaurants from offering dine-in service.
The attempt quickly failed. Marcona’s menu — which included a variety of chicken, sausage and beef skewers, and more — just wasn’t geared toward the take-out model, Overdevest said.
What drew people to Marcona was the in-person dining experience.
“They came to have a dining experience and sit for two hours at a time, have fun, enjoy their company, enjoy being taken care of,” Overdevest said.
His original plan was to temporarily close Marcona and reopen once the pandemic subsided. But it quickly became clear that the coronavirus pandemic wasn’t going away anytime soon, and that a continued emphasis on social distancing would change the way restaurants operate for the foreseeable future.
For a small, intimate restaurant like Marcona, the prospect of drastically limiting the number of customers in order to emphasize social distancing posed many challenges. And from a financial perspective, operating in such a capacity just wouldn’t be sustainable, Overdevest said.
There were also other obstacles. Would people even feel safe going back to the restaurant?
“You lose so much of that personal connection when people have that slight fear of who’s around me, what’s going on, are the people cooking my food safe,” Overdevest said.
“Everyone is a little nervous mentally with, ‘How am I going to relax and have fun when you have this underlying fear or worry?'”
Overdevest says his new venture is trying to allay those concerns.
Unless he is organizing an event for more than six people, he will be the only person from his company present. For larger events, he will bring an assistant. He will also wear a mask, gloves and follow recommended hand washing and sanitizing procedures.
So far, Overdevest has about eight people who have contacted events. After starting his business, he would like to make up to three or four meals a week.
“I’m not afraid to work,” he says. “I didn’t get into the restaurant or food business to sit at home.”
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