Through the decades that Stu Wanicur spent as a manager in the food business with such corporate giants as Aramark, Sysco, and Unilever, he dreamed of opening his own restaurant, serving what he called upscale food in a casual environment.
Last year, he bought the long-shuttered, circa-1859 farmhouse on Kresson Road in Cherry Hill that was the longtime home of the French restaurant La Campagne, and set about putting together The Farmhouse.
Opening day is Tuesday, May 16.
"This is a passion of mine," Wanicur, 47, said.
Dreams and passion are one thing. Hands-on experience is another.
Although Wanicur knew the financial end of the business, and chef David Murray has a solid kitchen background to execute a Southern-influenced farm-to-table menu, what about the front-of-the-house operation?
Wanicur got himself a job waiting tables at an Applebee's.
"They have good systems, policies, and procedures in place and I saw how I might be able to use them," Wanicur said. "This is a family-owned small business, but we want to run it like a $100 million operation for long-term success." The Farmhouse's employee manual runs 15 pages, Murray said.
Designer Jacqueline Epstein Bachman retained the building's bones, including four small dining rooms, pine floors, and old-time charm. A new vestibule keeps the weather out. A covered outdoor patio is roomy enough for a small dance floor.
Another modern feature is the wine program. Though the restaurant is still a BYOB, six wines are available through a partnership with Coda Rossa Winery of Franklinville.
Murray, 33, whose past includes The Gables at Chadds Ford, Water Club at the Borgata, and executive chef at the old Georges' in Wayne, says he sources most ingredients locally to create a seasonal menu; dinner entrees are $24 to $44, with burgers priced at $15 and $16. As every day seems to be a national "day" - e.g. May 3 is National Chocolate Custard Day - Murray says he will offer an appropriate dish.
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