Chef Howard Seidel retired at the end of last year after more than four decades in the food service industry, most recently with University of Illinois Springfield. Earlier this month, he opened his own restaurant, Brunchfield Café, at 751 S. Durkin Dr.
“I’m considering myself still retired; this is the hobby that you’re supposed to get when you retire,” said Seidel. “Somehow the opportunity came around and I said, ‘What the hell?’”
The opportunity presented itself in the form of a space recently vacated by Nico’s Homestyle Restaurant, which closed permanently in mid-March shortly after the statewide ban on indoor dining took effect and a few months after founder Nicholas Scaduto sold the business to other family members.
Seidel had previously met the property owner, Mark Pettyjohn, through a retirement seminar offered through Pettyjohn’s business, Retirement Peace Project.
“Mark had an empty restaurant and no rent coming in. It hit the right chord at the right time,” said Seidel, noting that he already had extensive experience running restaurants. One of Pettyjohn’s employees, Eric Naughton, also came on board to help with the website, social media and electronic cash register system.
The three partners opened the doors on Oct. 2 and Seidel said, “The word’s definitely getting out, we’re doing very well on weekends, and weekdays are gradually getting a little better.”
There is a staff of 10, and Seidel said, “The biggest difference that I’ve seen now versus the previous 46 years of my career has been in the hiring. In the past, when I would interview people, they had a job and wanted to switch jobs or move up in their careers. This is the first time that most of the employees were unemployed or looking for a second job.”
The restaurant is currently open from 7 a.m.-2 p.m., serving what Seidel describes as a contemporary twist on breakfast and lunch.
“It’s been pretty incredible,” he said. “I’ve opened up restaurants before, but this is the first time it’s been my restaurant.”