WEST BRIDGEWATER — Chef Andrew Geller grew up on his father’s southern California farm that produced certified-organic table grapes, and began working in the food industry at age 14 at the Beverly Hills Deli, delivering orders on roller skates.
“I loved it,” he said.
Later, he worked at the Ritz Carltons in Florida, Maui, South Carolina and the Jersey Shore. Along the way he attended the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y. He met his wife Francia in California, where they worked in the hotel business together, as chef and accountant, respectively.
Geller decided to leave the corporate hospitality scene when the 2008 economic downturn hit the industry. He and Francia began to search for a place of their own, and discovered Blanche and Bill’s Pancake House in West Bridgewater, just as Blanche was retiring after Bill’s passing.
The Gellers bought Blanche and Bill’s in 2009, continuing with the same name and menu, that harked back to the 1960s when the pancake house first opened.
Then Geller decided he wanted to expand his offerings. He said his choice of name was the result of a long process of elimination. His dad used to call him “Drewski,” and the name seemed the natural choice.
Drewski’s offers traditional comfort food with a contemporary spin, while keeping the old breakfast favorites. He describes his menu as “homemade, hand-crafted food” for a reasonable price. He uses nothing from a can and utilizes local farm ingredients, but added that he still uses “conventional” staples as a foundation. All the “classics” are offered: fresh potato salad, baked beans, mac and cheese, fresh-baked cornbread and baking-powder biscuits, hamburgers, salads. His “Roadhouse Hash” is made to order, the meat is ground and the fresh potatoes are cut and peeled by hand.
On July 8, the restaurant will begin offering its Tuesday night special, a Southern fried chicken dinner. Other dinner plates offered on the special dinner night will include pot roast, pan-seared salmon and smoked brisket.
Drewski’s draws clientele from all over central Vermont and beyond. He noted that Blanche’s old regulars have dropped by and are enjoying Geller’s cuisine.
The Gellers live in the attached residence, allowing for a “shoe-optional commute,” said Geller. There is space to plant a kitchen garden and create a tailgate-picnic area by the Ottauquechee, which flows past the property.
The Gellers are enthusiastic about becoming a community fixture. The restaurant largely escaped the devastation of Tropical Storm Irene, and the Gellers experienced how the neighbors along Route 4 pulled together to help each other. A community needs a lot of variety to meet its tastes and needs, he observed, and he welcomes suggestions from his customers.
“We’re not a greasy spoon,” he said. “We’re talking about making memories.”
Drewski’s on the River is open daily except Tuesday, 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. The business’s day off will switch to Wednesday after the Tuesday night special starts in early July. Drewski’s is located on Route 4 just east of the Route 100 intersection in West Bridgewater.
Find out more at www.drewskisontheriver.com or on the business’s Facebook page.