This isn’t the front porch of world master chef Sharon Van Meter’s house on the Big Island in Hawaii, but it’s the closest thing you’ll find around here.
The acclaimed chef turns 65 this year, but she’s only about one-third retired, she says.
Her corporate event and catering company, 3015 Trinity Groves, stayed open until recently, but lost virtually all its business at the outset of the pandemic. The 10,000-square-foot space didn’t make sense to her in a post-pandemic business climate.
Van Meter, who lives part time in Plano, began menu development for Beckley 1115, her cute, neighborhood wine bar in Dallas’ Oak Cliff neighborhood, when restaurants in Hawaii were still shut down.
The table on her porch seats 10, so she divided her friends into three sections. Each group tasted two appetizers, three entrees, two desserts and two salads.
“I had people calling, like ‘Do you have any openings tonight?’” she says. “I’m like, ‘It’s my house!’”
Spanish meatballs, squash toast and many Beckley 1115 dishes were perfected with tasting notes from those dinners, but the menu is constantly changing based on season, pricing and creative urges.
The Hilo fried chicken thighs come three to an order with amazing gochujang rice and are based on a dish that Van Meter liked at Hilo Bay Café. She showed chef Luke Rogers a photo and said, “Let’s do them like this.”
This isn’t farm-to-table, but it is seasonal and based on what Van Meter and Rogers are inspired to buy. Everything on the menu is under $30, which can be challenging with fluctuating prices.
Rogers wanted to put scallops on the menu, even though they cost $23.99 a pound.
“I said, ‘OK, we’ll put that on as a loss leader, and I’ll just raise the price of chicken 50 cents or something,’” she says.
The next time they ordered, the aprice of scallops had gone up to $37.99 a pound.
In her 50-year culinary career, she’s never seen anything like that, she says.
Staffing is also a constant struggle for everyone in the restaurant industry right now.
“But we’re having fun,” Van Meter says. “I wait tables when I’m here.”
Restaurant profit margins rarely exceed 3%, but Van Meter says she doesn’t mark up the wine as much as she could.
Three-ounce pours start at $6, and the most expensive 6-ounce glasses cost $14. Beckley 1115 serves two labels from Checkered Past Winery in Dallas, a tempranillo and a malbec, for $34 a bottle.
Order the monthly “burger for better,” and a portion of the proceeds goes to a nonprofit. The special has benefitted Wesley Rankin Community Center, Mammogram Poster Girls, 24 Hour Dallas and Mercy Chefs.
The kitchen was gutted and rebuilt for Beckley 1115, but the space is so small that there’s no room for a walk-in freezer. The wine fridge behind the bar also serves as food storage.
“You really have to be creative with purchasing,” she says. “These guys from big restaurants can come in and really learn the art of management.”
Van Meter, the only woman in her class at Le Cordon Bleu Paris, wound up in Dallas for her husband’s job and was previously executive chef of Ritz Carlton International and Neiman Marcus. A side career in TV, film and radio production means she knows your favorite TV chef.
She retired from her position at Food Network in March, but she’s not slowing down.
Her company recently financed the culinary dream of former Dallas chef Graham Dodd.
“He’s one of the best farm-to-table chefs in the country,” Van Meter says.
Their restaurant and mini resort, Nosa, opened recently in Ojo Caliente, New Mexico.
Amid staffing shortages, wild price fluxes and general anxiety in the restaurant industry, Van Meter says she’s finding that highly experienced professionals are more valuable than ever.
“I thought I was going to retire, but I guess I won’t,” she says.
1115 N. Beckley Ave.