Lunch takes on a new meaning at this chef-inspired delicatessen
|The Chef’s Table of Clermont, Fla., is located at 796 W. Minneola Ave. The delicatessen is open 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Saturday. For more information or catering requests, call (352) 242-1264 or log on to www.clermontchefstable.com.
There are delis and then there are delicatessens. The difference can be seen in the steaming Country Meatloaf and the unique Tom Turkey sandwiches at the Chef’s Table in Clermont, Fla.
Homemade and fresh are just two of the profound traits of this family-owned operation that is well known throughout downtown Clermont for its friendly atmosphere and stellar lunch menu. Among the restaurant’s distinctive characteristics is the “Geno’s homemade sausage packed in links” available for purchase in mild Italian, sweet Italian, hot Italian, fresh kielbasa and Geno’s special.
The story behind the sausage is the foundation for this casual delicatessen. Gena Cheplick grew up in northeastern Pennsylvania watching her father operate Nardini’s Grocery Store. Decades later, Gena with her husband Bob, son Dennis and daughter Denise opened a Clermont delicatessen in June 1997 bringing some of those famous sausage recipes from her father’s neighborhood market.
“Growing up in the grocery business with my parents, aunts and uncles, I learned the business pretty well,” Gena said.
An important piece to the family puzzle is Dennis. A former chef at Walt Disney World for 11 years, he brings a culinary zeal to the delicatessen that is unmatched. While the Blue Bell ice cream counter catches the eyes of younger customers, it’s the freezers in the rear of the establishment that excites even the simplest connoisseurs of fine foods.
When Chef Dennis isn’t piling the homemade stuffing, cranberry relish and oven-roasted turkey (not the processed deli slices) on his original Tom Turkey sandwich, he is using his culinary knowledge to construct some of the most divine frozen meals. Two freezers of prepackaged to-go entrees are chocked full of variety, such as baked ziti, country spare ribs and enchiladas.
“We get a lot of requests for the Cuban Beef and Plantain Pie,” Gena said. “It’s basically a Cuban shepherd’s pie, but it sells like crazy. That’s part of the fun. We prepare different to-go dishes and it helps keep it different for the customer.”
The Chef’s Table has a small dining area, but come during most lunch rushes and patrons of this delicatessen can be seen at the nearby city-owned pavilion across the street, or lakeside at the Lake Minneola Scenic Trail.
“That trail is wonderful down there because we get a lot of bikers and walkers from it,” Gena said about the 5.5-mile trail that is a popular recreation amenity for locals and athletes visiting the National Training Center. “Some of the tri-athletes come down here and that’s good because they like to eat healthy.”