Chef’s Table Returns To Westport! Cross Highway Rejoices.

When Christie’s Country Store closed in December, a shiver went through the Cross Highway neighborhood.

The breakfast/sandwich/grill/grocery place had been around since 1926. It served nearby residents, Staples and Bedford students, and plenty of landscapers and workers nearby or passing through.

But it was a non-conforming use, in a residential area. Now it was shut. These things don’t usually end well.

Fortunately, this one does.

Chef’s Table is moving in. Rich Herzfeld will pick up right where John Hooper left off.

It’s a homecoming of sorts. Herzfeld — the Culinary Institute of America-trained baker/chef, who honed his trade under Jean Yves Le Bris at La Gourmandise in Norwalk — set off on his own in 1995. He opened his first Chef’s Table at 44 Church Lane.

It was, Rich recalls, “like a small Hay Day.” High-end prepared foods and fresh salads drew a devoted downtown crowd. Two years later, Herzfeld added soups.

In 2001 he opened a 2nd Chef’s Table, on the Post Road in Fairfield. Two years later he added a 3rd, in the former Arcudi’s pizza restaurant next to  Carvel.

The 2007 market crash hit the 2 Westport locations hard. Suddenly, Rich says, everyone was brown-bagging lunch, or eating fast food. Corporate catering dried up.

The Fairfield site — with a broader demographic — did fine.

Rich sold the Church Lane spot to the Wild Pear. Arcudi’s returned to its original spot.

Wild Pear took over from Chef’s Table, on Church Lane. It closed in 2013. After extensive renovations, it is now the site of Aux Delices.

The 2 locations changed hands again. Today, both — coincidentally — are Aux Delices.

Meanwhile, Rich had asked commercial realtor (and Staples High School graduate) Tom Febbraio to keep an eye out for any place here that was already set up for a Chef’s Table-type operation.

Last year, John Hooper’s Christie’s lease was up. Tom told Rich. He was not only interested — he’d loved it for a long time.

“I knew Christie’s well,” Rich says. “It’s a great location. It has history. And the space is perfect for us.”

He’ll sell his signature soups, salads and sandwiches. A few years ago he got back into baking, so there will be plenty of croissants and baguettes.

Rich Herzfeld, with his delicious sourdough bread.

There’s a pizza oven in back — something the Fairfield Chef’s Table lacks — so Rich will make sourdough pizzas too. (The crust is great, he promises — “it takes 3 days to make!”)

The Fairfield location — not far from Fairfield University, Fairfield Ludlowe High and 2 middle schools — is “student-centric,” Rich says. His new Cross Highway spot is even closer, to Staples High and Bedford Middle Schools.

“I have a 21-year-old and a 14-year-old,” Rich notes. “I know what kids want.”

He plans to sell old-fashioned candy, ice cream — and items like milk, sugar and toilet paper, for neighbors who just need one or two quick items. And he would love to resurrect the Frosty Bear ice cream gazebo.

“We’ll be listening closely to what neighbors and customers want,” Rich says. “We’ll try to make it happen.”

Though Chef’s Table will operate from around 6 a.m. to 7 p.m., Rich predicts his bread-and-butter will be breakfasts and lunches. He’s especially excited to serve breakfasts — “good food, providing great energy” to folks working in the area.

Christie’s — with its handsome front porch — has always been a welcoming, neighborhood place.

The Cross Highway store will be overseen by Rich’s son David. Now 29, and the breakfast guru at the Fairfield spot, he grew up at Chef’s Table on Church Lane. When he was just 9, David was baking cookies — and selling them at a table there.

Rich hopes to open by April 1. (No fooling!)

And the name?

It will be “Chef’s Table at Christie’s Country Store.”

Rich knows the 93-year history of the spot he’s moving into. He loves the legacy.

He can’t wait to begin writing the next chapter.

(Hat tip: Suzannah Rogers)

23 responses to “Chef’s Table Returns To Westport! Cross Highway Rejoices.

  1. Yay! Great location for something fun!

  2. Rebecca Ellsley

    Very excited and welcome back home. Best soup ever

  3. Julie Shapiro

    GREAT NEWS – two suggestions, soups were great. In the summer offer take out packages for beach goers and team sandwiches for staples players when they’re traveling

  4. Well, I knew Christie, and Mary and Don; and I know Rich – I love it when two different, and great, worlds come together. And I love the fact that the local neighborhood spirit of Christie’s, which Rich obviously knows and celebrates, will live on. Looking forward to getting Chef’s Table – quality eats in my old neighborhood!

  5. Great news!

  6. Ellen Lautenberg

    Could not be more thrilled to have Chef’s Table back in Westport and at Christie’s!!! We live walking distance from Christie’s and have always supported it as a great local business. Also, for those who are not familiar with Tim’s car repair service there, it’s another wonderful local business to check out!

  7. Yahoo! Was always a fan & still a fan of Chef’s T. Love that you can listen to Live Music on a Thursday at Lunchtime (Fairfield)! Welcome back to The 06880. Fire up all the burners…

  8. Fantastic. I look forward to checking it out in the spring.

  9. My wife and I have used Tim’s excellent auto repair service for years but recently have missed having a place next door for coffee and sandwiches while his guys work on our cars. Sounds like that problem goes away now as our beautiful Westport spring gets ready to unfold around us!

  10. This is Wonderful News … I wish them the Best at their new location

  11. looks like ill be in hot soup again

  12. Jean Marie Wiesen

    I’m excited 😊 down the street and around the corner! I can’t wait! I love your soups and the sourdough is fantastic, too.

  13. This is the best news I’ve heard in a long time!!!!

  14. Awesome

  15. Nancy Powers Conklin

    My husband and I often frequent Chef’s Table in Fairfield Center for hot soups,, especially in the cold weather. And, we have purchased sandwiches to take to the beach to watch the sun set! Happy to hear about Chef’s Table moving into Christie’s!

  16. Janine Scotti

    I would also love to be able to pre order a roasted chicken in the morning to pick up after I grab the kids from the high school.

  17. Audrey Hertzel

    Would be great if they deliver!

  18. A great pairing. Hope they have live music if they get the word out with enough good advertising it should be a bang up success

  19. Great News!!

  20. Lynda Shannon Bluestein

    This is wonderful news! I am happy to have Chef’s Table in Fairfield where I live and now at the Christie’s location near The Unitaran Church in Westport for breakfast and lunch meet-ups,