Good cooking makes people happy

September 29, 2023

Food television has brought chefs out of the kitchen and into the spotlight. They’re not only branding their restaurants, but themselves as well. Our downstate stable of stars (so far!) includes Bill Clifton, who was the opening chef for Henlopen City Oyster House and co-owner of Counting House restaurant in Georgetown. The restaurant was closed when The Brick Hotel building was sold. Bill went head to head with Bobby Flay on Food Network’s “Beat Bobby Flay.”

Award-winning Pastry Chef Dru Tevis is certainly a household word around these parts. One fateful evening, this former bartender (remember Blue restaurant in downtown Rehoboth?) was pressed into service when a chef no-showed. The rest is culinary history, with Dru earning his degree in pastry arts (as class valedictorian) at the French Culinary Institute in New York. While he was there, he gained many of his considerable skills from Pastry Chef Kierin Baldwin of The Dutch, and Christina Tosi, the high-profile chef and owner of Momofuku Milk Bar. After moving back to Rehoboth in 2012, he furthered his education with classes at The French Pastry School and Chocolate Academy in Chicago, Good Taste of Tuscany in Signa, Italy, Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, and Leith’s School of Food & Wine in London. The Cape Region sat mesmerized when Dru took home the $25,000 grand prize as winner of Food Network’s “Holiday Baking Championship” competition last year.

One of the nicest kitchen bosses is none other than Chef Robbie Jester. After his stint cooking here in Sussex, he not only appeared on “Beat Bobby Flay,” but actually did beat Bobby Flay. He was also on FN's “Guy's Grocery Games,” winning on his second appearance. More recently, he prevailed on the Netflix “Pressure Cooker” competition, emerging as winner yet again. His upstate eateries are very popular; one of my favorites is Wilmington’s Great Big Jerk – a Jamaican-flavored spot that has expanded even farther north into Pennsylvania.

No mention of food and TV would be complete without a respectful nod to award-winning BBQ pitmaster and wing champion Chip Hearn. Chip and his family opened their first restaurant in Rehoboth Beach while Chip was still in college and soon were operating six fast-food franchises. He was named Tastee-Freez franchisee of the year, and earned numerous silver and gold cone awards from Dairy Queen. The Ice Cream Store in Rehoboth Beach has been in operation for over 50 years. Get a taste of Hearn’s sense of humor by taking a look at some of the names he has created for his ice cream flavors.

In the late ‘70s, Chip and his family purchased the Country Squire in Rehoboth and eventually took over The Starboard in Dewey. His now-copied-everywhere Bloody Mary Smorgasbord and the ever-increasing collection of hot sauces gave rise not only to (one of the biggest online hot sauce outlets on the planet, which you can shop right here in Lewes!), but also to more than 200 national and international sauce awards and championships, including the Delaware State Championship and the American Royal Pulled Pork World Championship.

This column was inspired by a (brilliantly produced) radio show last weekend on 92.7FM that featured Delaware’s own culinary celebrity, Chef Hari Cameron. Hari attributes his appreciation for unusual dining to the fact that his parents were hippies (his words), migrating from town to town as little Hari blissfully subsisted on pungent Indian cuisine and sushi, long before it was trendy. After cooking at several local restaurants, he graduated at the top of his class from Walnut Hill Restaurant College in Philadelphia.

He worked with Kevin Reading downtown at the long-gone Espuma, eventually taking over the executive chef position at Nage. The serendipitous amalgam of Kevin and chef-in-his-own-right Josh Grapski gave rise to Fork & Flask, part of Grapski’s La Vida Hospitality operation that includes the three Crooked Hammock Breweries, Big Chill Surf Cantina, Taco Reho restaurant and food truck, and Big Chill Beach Club at the southeast end of the Indian River Inlet bridge. With Grapski’s blessing, Hari established a(MUSE.) restaurant in Rehoboth to fulfill his dream of restaurant ownership.

In an amazing conceptual about-face, Cameron eventually teamed up with his brother Orion to create Grandpa MAC – an informal spot dishing up chef-driven mac & cheese dishes along with homemade salads, soups and sandwiches. Grandpa MAC is still going strong, and Hari has branched out to work with high-end restaurant equipment manufacturers to demonstrate their upscale machinery with his whimsical knack for curating food that’s as beautiful to look at as it is to eat.

Noted Chef Thomas Keller, proprietor of the multiple award-winning French Laundry restaurant, said it best: “When you acknowledge, as you must, that there is no such thing as perfect food, only the idea of it, then the real purpose of striving toward perfection becomes clear: to make people happy. That is what cooking is all about.” And I suspect that each and every one of our Cape Region chefs and skilled cooks would heartily agree.


  • So many restaurants, so little time! Food writer Bob Yesbek gives readers a sneak peek behind the scenes, exposing the inner workings of the local culinary industry, from the farm to the table and everything in between. He can be reached at

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