One British family has passed the torch to another, as the Colemans of Haddonfield hand off their business of nine years to Chef Ian Whitfield, his wife Kate, and mother-in-law Pat Gould.
By Matt Skoufalos | November 29, 2018
A few months ago, British Chip Shop owners Gary and Denise Coleman, and their son, Ed Strojan, had believed they’d simply be closing the doors of their long-running Haddonfield restaurant at the end of December.
“If I was 55 or 50, we probably would have kept it going,” Gary Coleman told NJ Pen in September.
“But I have three grandkids now, and it’s time to enjoy family a bit more.”
In the outpouring of public support that followed after the closing was announced, word reached the Whitfield family, who wondered whether the Colemans would rather hand off the business to them than shut it down.
“They said, ‘Do you mind if we come over and take a look?’” Gary Coleman said. “I just started bringing stuff out from the menu and continued our discussion, and it evolved from there.”
Kate Whitfield remembers the conversation that prompted that visit as happening just as quickly.
“I called mom and said, ‘Hypothetically, what if the Chip Shop’s for sale?’ and she said, ‘I’m in.’”
For the Colemans, the opportunity to see the business they’d built for most of a decade pass into capable hands was the best news they could have hoped for.
“We were just going to shut it down, and this way it gets to continue,” Gary Coleman said. “They’re going to take it to the next level, which they’re excited about, and we’re excited about.
“It’s really rewarding to see the changing of the guard,” he said.
For Ian Whitfield, a professional chef of 34 years, the opportunity is “fantastically mind-blowing.”
Whitfield, who hails from Newcastle, England, said being able to head up his own, British-themed kitchen is “almost a lifelong dream.”
“It’s taken so many years in my profession to be able to get to this stage; to showcase to people how inviting and evocative British food can be these days,” he said. “Food is so much greater than it was 30 years ago in the UK; it’s come on leaps and bounds.”
It was a little more than 30 years ago that Ian Whitfield came to the United States with his parents, with whom he helped run Indian Mills Pizza in Shamong. His career has included work in privately owned hotels, pubs, and restaurants; most recently, he opened Braise 116 in Haddonfield with chef-owner Mark Raab.
In the past year-and-a-half, Whitfield has come to know and love the borough and its busy main street. Now the chef has an opportunity to accentuate its dining scene with his own culinary and cultural influences.
“There’s so many different ingredients [in British cuisine] that we can use that are so much more flavorful,” he said; “different cooking methods that aren’t understood by people over here.
“We’d like to bring in the idea of comfort food: home-cooked pies, even more fish dishes, and health-oriented dishes,” Ian Whitfield said. “We’d like to lighten the menu, and bring forward those flavors and flavors profiles in a more modern and novel way.”
After the new owners get through the holiday months, they’ll begin making broader changes to the menu.
For a start, diners can expect roast carving stations, game dishes, and modern twists on old favorites, like terrines, puddings, and pasties.
Cured meats and fishes, house-made cheeses, and baked desserts will be added into the mix as well.
“For me, it’s about having the family around,” Ian Whitfield said; “being able to bring those fresh, homely flavors that I grew up with as a kid to Haddonfield, so everybody else can taste what my old childhood was all about.”
Family is at the center of the new Chip Shop, said Kate Whitfield, who will handle the back end of the business.
“We all have something different that we’re bringing to the table,” she said. “We have a great dynamic working together.”
Gould, a 34-year food service veteran who oversees 18 school cafeterias and 135 employees, will oversee the front of the house.
“I have a wonderful son-in-law who’s a chef, my daughter is going to keep the books; it’s something exciting to bring the family together.” Gould said.
“[The Colemans] had a tradition for nine years; it’s so exciting for us to be able to continue,” she said. “We’re carrying their legacy on.”
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