Every restaurant has one. The waiter who’s always smiling. The waiter who knows everyone by name. The waiter who gets the order right every time. You know the one. It doesn’t matter if you are in Columbia or Camden or Cayce or Kershaw. Every local restaurant has a waiter or waitress that everybody loves. At the Garner’s Ferry Road Hickory Tavern, that waiter is Erik Belisle.
You never know what the day, or night, is going to bring. A slow night can be a waiter’s worst nightmare, but for Erik Belisle, a slow night changed everything.
The crowd was light so Belisle started up a conversation with one of his regular families. Talk turned to good food. Belisle loves to cook, always has. The mom admitted that she does not love to cook. Almost jokingly, she asked Belisle if he would come to her home and cook for her family. Of course, he said “yes” and that’s when Erik Eats began. Yes, you never know what the night will bring.
Hiring personal chefs has become popular. Families want to sit at their own table and eat together as a family. They want the convenience of staying home, but they also want a break from the kitchen and all that goes with it. Belisle is happy to accommodate. He plans the menu, does the grocery shopping, cooks the meal, serves the meal, and leaves the kitchen spotless. Can’t beat that.
A waiter can’t control how busy a night is going to be. He can’t control if he is in the weeds or in isolation. But, here’s what he can do. He can stay open to opportunities. He can take the best care of the customers that he does have. That’s what Erik Belisle did. A slow night with the right customers changed everything.
He had always wanted to start a business, but wasn’t sure of his first step. He knew he was a good cook, but wasn’t sure how to get his dream off the ground. Sometimes the universe puts that first step right in front of us.
His business model is simple. He plans the menu with the family. His specialty is Portuguese dishes, but he can do almost anything. He does the shopping for ingredients, travels to the customer’s kitchen, and works his magic. He’s happy in the kitchen. Customers seem happy to have him in their homes. They enjoy a delicious homemade meal they didn’t have to cook. Belisle is happy to leave behind recipes, and course, loves to schedule the next visit.
For local families, Belisle charges $100 plus the cost of the ingredients. He says some people like to watch him prepare the meal so they can replicate it themselves, while others stay out of the kitchen and don’t even know he’s there until dinner is served. He doesn’t mind either way.
You can find Belisle on Facebook. If you’re in Columbia, and if you’re lucky, he’ll be your waiter at Hickory Tavern. Even if you don’t hire him to cook for you, you’ll enjoy his company. Your order will be perfect. He will take the best care of you. And you might just make a new friend.
(Tammy Davis is a Lee County native, Columbia resident, and a contributing columnist to the Chronicle-Independent, Camden, S.C., and Lee County Observer, Bishopville, S.C. Her new book is “Chin-Up Buttercup -- A Collection of Essays and Devotions on the Power of Faith, Perseverance and a Positive Attitude.” On occasion, she can be spotted on the Hickory Tavern patio working on writing assignments. Visit her website at www.tammydavisstories.com. Email her, including for an autographed copy, at email@example.com.)