GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — When COVID-19 forced his Grand Rapids restaurant to permanently close, chef Matt Overdevest cooked up a new plan to share his cuisine: Steadfast Supper Club.
Marcona on Lyon was building a name for itself when the pandemic hit.
“We got an industry award. We were on Grand Rapids Magazine’s Top 10 list for restaurants. We started getting that great following. We had a really great core group of regular guests in a really wide demographic. The word was getting around. It felt like we were just starting to get our momentum,” Overdevest said.
But the “experiential” Mediterranean restaurant on Lyon Street near Union Avenue NE didn’t fit the new food landscape prompted by the pandemic.
“(Marcona on Lyon) was about that interaction with the guests and people coming in. And they weren’t there for 20 minutes. It was an hour and a half, two hours was standard,” Overdevest said.
“We (didn’t) have just order takers,” he added. “I would spend 20 minutes at a table just chatting with people because that’s what they’d like to do.”
ADAPTING WITHOUT DINE-IN SERVICE
Marcona on Lyon and its 15 employees tried to weather the COVID-19 storm, reaching out to food delivery services like DoorDash and Grubhub even before Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s executive order closed restaurant dining rooms.
Marcona on Lyon also altered its menu and switched to takeout service only, with Overdevest and two chefs running the entire business for a week.
“It just was not worth it,” said Overdevest. “The amount of business we were doing didn’t even add up to the cost associated with us even opening the door.”
On May 8, Overdevest made the announcement: Marcona on Lyon would not be reopening.
“It’s emotional for me because … I take a tremendous amount of pride in what I do and the people I had as guests, and I really had that connection with a lot of people, like a real genuine connection. And it hurts me to not be able to have that with them right now,” Overdevest said.
STEADFAST SUPPER CLUB
Before Marcona on Lyon, Overdevest served as a local family’s private chef for a decade. Now he’s turning to those skills to bring the restaurant experience into people’s homes.
“When I was a private chef… I had no budget and I could do whatever I wanted, which was really cool. So I spent 10 years never cooking the same dish twice,” he said. “I have a really, really, really wide range of things that I can do, and so I want to offer that to other people.”
For a minimum of $450, Overdevest will come into a customer’s home and create a four- or six-course dining experience, following federal guidelines to prevent COVID-19.
Overdevest said he will create a menu based on the host’s requests, buy all the food needed and bring it all to the host’s home to prepare and serve, wearing a mask at all times.
“I have a separate set of shoes that I wear inside versus out that had been cleaned so I’m not walking from a grocery store into a home,” he added.
He plans to wear gloves at all times inside a host’s home, including while preparing and serving food.
“(There are about) a hundred gloves and a box. I’d probably use at least… one-and-a-half boxes of gloves per meal,” he said.
Overdevest also plans to wash all raw produce in an acidic solution and rewash all the host’s dishes before setting the table. He’ll also take care of the dirty dishes afterwards.
“My goal is to make people comfortable with it and I’m happy to do whatever needs to happen to make that happen,” he said.
Subpar kitchens don’t faze Overdevest.
“Everybody thinks you need that big fancy kitchen, and the reality is you don’t. I have no problem if you have an electric stove, I have no problem,” he said. “I’ve cooked on boats that have tiny, tiny, tiny galleys. I can cook in almost anybody anybody’s home.”
Each meal will come with context.
“It’s not just a plate of food to me — there’s always a history or a story or … a reason why it is what it is,” he said. “So yeah, I will be explaining all of those just as I would in the restaurant, except now it’s in your home.”
PERSONAL CHEF BUSINESS BOOM
The cost is $80 per person for a four-course meal or $100 per person for a six-course meal, not including grocery costs.
“People are going to have birthdays and anniversaries and celebrations every single day, and you want to be able to be in an environment where you feel comfortable. You can let your guard down with people and not be concerned with what’s going on, where this is in your home or in your backyard or whatever, and I have the ability to come in and prepare all of this for you,” he said.
Overdevest says while paying at least $450 for a meal isn’t for everyone, business is booming for personal chefs.
“It’s a ‘Catch-22’ right now: You like being at home, but you don’t like having to do it all yourself all the time. That’s the hard part,” he said. “I know a few other personal chefs here in town and their business is incredible right now. (They) are delivering meals to homes they’ve either prepared somewhere else… to have during the week and their business is thriving.”
It’s a trend also popping up in New York City, where some top chefs who were laid off during the pandemic are now being recruited to become private chefs for wealthy families, according to Business Insider.
For more information or to schedule a dinner party with Overdevest, visit Steadfast Supper Club’s website at www.steadfastsupperclub.com.