LINWOOD — For more than three decades The Cheese Board in Linwood’s upscale Central Square has been a mainstay for lunch. For 31 years Chris Corso owned and operated the restaurant but sold the iconic eatery in April to Kathy Whitmore and Michael Everett of Linwood.
For the married couple, this is their first foray into owning a restaurant, but they were quick to add that their love of food, entertaining and gathering with friends and family around the table has always been a big part of their lives. Together, they have traveled extensively in the U.S. and in Europe and gravitated to welcoming spots where gathering over bread and cheese with friends was the common denominator. On their decision to buy the Cheese Board, Everett said, “We recognized the high standard that Chris (Corso) had established here at the Cheese Board. We want to add new things as well as retain those tried and true selections that customers love.”
Everett said that in his decision making he knew a successful menu would need to include the Cheese Board’s iconic chicken salad along with corned beef, roast beef and turkey sandwiches. But the menu also needed a tune up that would resonate with younger customers and include vegan, vegetarian and healthy options. One of the new items added by chef and manager Ray Nunzi is a mayonnaise-free tuna salad. “It is absolutely delicious,” added Whitmore. “It is yellowfin tuna made with mustard, scallions, dill, lemon and crushed almonds, and while it may not be as creamy as standard tuna with mayo, it more than makes up for it with its delicious flavor.”
They are working on a mouthwatering fresh corn salad as well as other offerings that feature locally sourced produce. “We are making everything in house,” said Everett. “We offer delicious salads, and our dressings are homemade, our guacamole is made here fresh, we will be expanding our dessert offerings and they will all be homemade. Our menu and our kitchen will have a standard of freshness and offer a variety of selections for our customers.”
The new owners agreed that food needs to be aesthetically pleasing as well as delicious. To that end, Nunzi along with the owners and their son Andrew Everett, who has worked in the restaurant industry for 20 years, are diligently working to create the perfect sandwich with sprouts and avocado and cheeses so every bite blends the flavors evenly and deliciously. “We want our customers to really enjoy every bite,” said Everett.
In the three months since the couple took ownership of the Cheese Board, they have made a number of aesthetic changes. Gone are the dark Mediterranean oranges and browns in favor of cooler shades and a contemporary vibe. The tables have been spaced to meet with state distancing regulations, and racks of shelving that hold the dips, mustards, pasta and sauces and the refrigerated case with a variety of cheeses have all been relocated to provide a more open space.
Everett said they were fortunate to be able to bring back the Cheese Board staff members who are familiar with the clientele when they call or come through the door. Right now, the take out business is working well, and Everett said he hopes that will steadily increase going forward. They have several outdoor tables for patrons to enjoy their meal al fresco, but are looking forward to the permitted expansion to indoor dining. They will be offering more than salads, wraps, pita pockets and sandwiches. Their lineup will include catering, gift baskets, cheese boards and a variety of specialty cheeses, including those from New Jersey creameries. Also, a part of their lineup will include partnering with other businesses and chefs on Sundays when the Cheese Board is normally closed. While still in the early planning stages they hope to hold events such as tastings and pairings that would be something different yet interesting to area foodies with the ultimate goal of holding events to benefit area nonprofits.
Everett said he resurrected his grandfather’s tea business several years ago, Bleeker and Simmons. It is featured at the Cheese Board along with Hay Day Coffee of Atlantic City. All of the profits from the sale of Bleeker and Simmons tea go to support local non-profits. The Cheese Board will host several Sunday afternoon high teas during the year, featuring Bleeker and Simmons teas along with tea sandwiches, scones and other desserts.
The new owners are both retired educators. Michael Everett was a guidance counselor at Atlantic City High School, and Kathy Whitmore was a teacher in the school district. Both have extensive experience working with nonprofits. Whitmore is on the executive board of the Leadership Studio in Atlantic City and Everett has been a part of the Champions of Youth program in Atlantic City.
Whitmore said, “We are very familiar with nonprofits, and finding ways to help others in our community is very important to us. We are thinking of a number of ways to be a part of the community and benefit the community at large.”
So, what convinced them to open a restaurant in such a challenging climate? Both agreed they were looking for something new. “We are a little further along in life, and we are blessed to be at this point,” said Everett. “You are only as good as your credibility, your work ethic and your willingness to work toward a goal. We have a good staff and good management, and we are each other’s biggest cheerleaders.”
The Cheese Board is located in Central Square, 199 New Road, in Linwood. They will have an app to order online in several weeks but for now, call to order and pick up or eat outdoors, 609- 653-8088. Hours are 10:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday. They are closed Sunday, but will be partnering with others for special events and the venue will be available for private events when the state coronavirus guidelines are eased.