I’m a true foodie and have some favorite places that are my go-to, need now diners. Being out of town right now I’ve been thinking about and missing terribly some of my favorite eateries.
I happened to be scrolling through Facebook this past weekend and saw a post about one of my favorite places and it just broke my heart. Chef Jerome of Old School Diner posted that his wife of 45 years, Lauretta G Brown, passed away on Oct. 11. About five days later he posted he was opening the restaurant and welcomed his, “food family,” to come join him for great food and talk about the life of Lauretta.
Chef Jerome is one of the most personable and friendly Professional Chefs I know. Always welcoming to his patrons.
I recall when I first stumbled upon the Old School Diner. I was thrilled at the chance to be able to step inside this eclectic yet warm and inviting diner well –known for its carpeted parking lot (yes real carpets are strewn throughout the parking lot) but more importantly for Chef Jerome and the delicious foods he cooks. I recall one time near Christmas, I took my friends there. It was their first visit. I waited for them outside so I would get to see their reaction to the carpeted parking lot.
And it was just as I expected. They had that “wear in the world did you bring us to,” look on their face and I knew they would be just as curious as we stepped inside. As soon as you walk in you know you are in for a treat. The walls are covered with photos of happy diners, many posing with Chef Jerome. You walk into the hallway with a real roaring fire place and it was perfect for that cold winter night.
The main dining area is covered in photos, old movie posters and memorabilia. A piano sits in the corner and old vinyl albums from Teddy Pendergrass, Mile Davis and Dionne Warwick hang next to music by Kenny Rogers and a poster of Al Pacino from the movie Scarface. I can still recall the puzzled looks from my friends, “Trust me,” I tell them, “It’s the food that will make you understand.”
Any of their concerns were quickly evaporated once the hush puppies arrived. You never know if your friends are going to like a certain place just because you do, but as the night went on it was obvious we were all enjoying the experience. Chef Jerome serves the area’s best seafood, ribs and steaks but most people come for his signature dish – The Wheelchair Platter – a sampling of whatever Chef Jerome decides and as the menu states “trust your chef.”
And we did.
Chef prides himself in personally meeting and greeting each diner and socializes with his patrons every day. We got the opportunity to have him sit with us for dinner and loved every minute of it.
“How often do you get the chef to bring you the food and sit down and talk to you,” one of my friends said.
“Those are 16-20 shrimp and they are local,” the chef said as our Wheelchair Platter arrived, laden with fried shrimp, grouper, stuffed crab cakes and the BIGGEST pork ribs I’ve ever seen. We ordered the Wheelchair Platter for three but it was enough to feed five to six – easy. My other friend ordered a cheeseburger with mayonnaise and pickles. The pickle slices were huge, which was great since she loves pickles. “How do you like those pickles,” the chef asked. “They are slightly spicy and I spice and prepare them myself.” And that is the key, the reason the locals want to keep this place to themselves and return as often as possible. The chef prepared everything from scratch with local ingredients and as he says, “A little bit of this and a little bit of that,” and obviously with a WHOLE LOT OF LOVE.
I’ll never forget that visit and others I’ve had with Chef Jerome. I went back once while doing an interview for a feature about him and Old School Diner for Liberty Life Magazine. I got a chance to briefly meet his wife. I know he had a deep love for her and can only pray that he finds the strength to get through this incredibly difficult period in his life. I was happy to see he wanted to re-open and continue his passion of cooking. I wonder what recipes Lauretta will inspire and look forward to getting back to Old School Diner and try them all. In the meantime I offer my condolences and wish Chef Jerome and his family the very best. If you happen to be a fan of Chef Jerome go pay him a visit, I’m sure he would appreciate seeing his friends during his time of need.