Inspired by his grandma, sustained by his Broadway family, Randy Stricklin-Witherspoon is cooking up memories at Spoonfed on W51st Street in Hell’s Kitchen.
I was always a big Grandma’s boy
My paternal grandmother was the love of my life. My earliest memories are with her in the kitchen, on the porch shucking corn, pulling the string out of string beans, and snapping peas. We spent a lot of time in the garden or at church.
I moved to New York in 1989, following my divorce
I’d been in the military for six years, married with two children, and I started working backstage on Broadway as a dresser. I only know working and playing in Hell’s Kitchen.
Cooking became more than a hobby after my late partner passed suddenly
It became therapeutic and allowed me to focus on being creative and sharing with my friends, instead of slipping into depression. It seems my passion for cooking grew and became a big hit with my Broadway family. All of the performers, gypsies, stage crews, and supporting teams of every show is family. Over the years, we’ve all worked with each other on one show or the other. It was the Broadway community’s idea to start a catering business and then open a restaurant.
But then … disaster!
In the course of remodeling the restaurant, the construction company did not complete the job, at which time the Broadway community stepped in and completed construction on the restaurant. Crew members, actors, wardrobe personnel, hair and make-up personnel, friends and family from pretty much all the shows on Broadway and new neighbors of Hell’s Kitchen kept my dream from dying. Spoonfed NYC would not have its doors open if this caring community had not showered me with love.
The restaurant is my baby
And we’re still in the infancy stages. My husband, Mark, and I are selling our home in Fort Greene to live in Hell’s Kitchen near the restaurant. We love our home in Brooklyn. I raised my daughters there and now they are adults with their own families. Our grandchildren and our dogs have been in many front stoop pics over the years and we will all miss it. But our focus and commitment is seeing to the success of the restaurant.
My go-to item on the menu?
Deep-fried meatloaf wrapped in bacon and mac and alotta cheese. Mark convinced the kitchen and staff that our special house gravy should go on just about everything, especially the mac and alotta cheese.
The secret to great Southern cooking is …
Memories. I remember how my grandmother’s kitchen smelled, felt, and tasted. So I cook until I have replicated all of those qualities.
This story originally appeared in the March 2018 issue of W42ST Magazine. Spoonfed is now closed.