Spence 312 wins this year's Chef's Best competition
● By J. Chambless
Andrew Patten, the chef at Spence 312, pictured outside the restaurant on South High Street. He previously ran Spence Cafe in West Chester for 14 years.
By Steven Hoffman
On March 19, local chefs prepared some of their signature dishes for the 2015 Chef’s Best competition, an annual fundraiser for ACT in Faith of Greater West Chester.
Lump crab cakes with an orange fennel salad prepared by Andrew Patten, the chef at Spence 312, was selected by the attendees as the winner. Shortly after the win, Patten added the crab cakes to the restaurant’s menu for the spring.
Patten, a lifelong resident of West Chester, is looking forward to the arrival of the first warm season since Spence 312 debuted at 312 South High Street last November. The restaurant has quickly become a favored spot for foodies.
“I think we’ve had success because we serve good food in an adult atmosphere,” Patten said. “We’re not trying to be stuffy, of course, but there was a need for more options for this kind of food.”
Spence 312 may be new to the borough’s business district, but Patten is a veteran of West Chester’s restaurant scene. He previously owned Spence Cafe for 14 years. The name was taken from an oyster house called Spence Cafe that operated in West Chester in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
“There was a lot of history there and I carried the name down here,” Patten explained. He added that Spence Cafe built a loyal following during its long run, which certainly helped when he decided to open Spence 312.
“The response has been great,” Patten said. “A lot of the customers from Spence Cafe have followed us down here.”
Spence 312 offers dining in a relaxed atmosphere. The menu includes everything from seared scallops to maple brined pork chops to steak to pasta to a wide assortment of fresh fish.
“I get all my fresh fish locally from Gadaleto’s Seafood Market,” Patten explained.
An important member of the Spence 312 team is sous chef John Banes.
“He’s been working with me since we opened and he has been indispensable,” Patten said. “We collaborate on the menu and all kinds of things.”
In addition to the indoor seating for approximately 100 people, including space for private parties, the restaurant also has an area for outdoor dining.
Patten said that West Chester, with its status as the county seat and the presence of the university, is a good place to have a restaurant.
“West Chester is a great town,” he said. “It’s been a great place to live and a great place to have a business.”
Attendees of the Chef’s Best competition were treated to some of the best food in West Chester. Avalon Modern Italian Restaurant entered Buccatini with prosciutto, peas and Parmesan cream into the competition. The Side Bar & Restaurant served up lamb meatballs with Israeli vegetable cous cous. Harvest Seasonal Grille & Wine Bar served an Ahi Tuna Nicoise Salad with baby greens, olives, hard-boiled eggs, tomatoes, and Peruvian purple potatoes tossed in a lemon basil vinaigrette.
This was the fourth annual Chef’s Best competition. All the proceeds from the event support ACT in Faith, an interfaith ministry that provides physical, financial, and spiritual support to people in the Greater West Chester area who lack basic human needs, including food, shelter, clothing. ACT in Faith operates a community food cupboard and also maintains an emergency fund that can be used to assist people who might be facing eviction or who are at risk of having their utilities shut off. The seeds for ACT in Faith were planted in May of 2009, when the Religious Council of Greater West Chester, an organization which had been active in the community since the 1970s, felt the need to find a way to assist the growing number of people in the area who needed help paying for food, clothing, and shelter. In just a few short years, ACT in Faith has made a tremendous impact on the West Chester community by helping those in need.
“I really liked being able to do something for the charity,” Patten said. “It’s a good cause. We want to help the community.”
To contact Staff Writer Steven Hoffman, email firstname.lastname@example.org.