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Thursday, April 18, 2024

Forecast 2024: Chedrawee Discovers Success with Simone’s Kitchen in Schenectady


SCHENECTADY – Meet ​Bashir ​Chedrawee, a young man who ​spent his adolescence ​working in a family-run Lebanese eatery ⁤in Cohoes.⁣ Despite ⁢his early ‌exposure to ⁤the​ food industry, ‍he envisioned⁢ a⁤ future in medicine, not in ⁢the‍ kitchen.

Chedrawee pursued his passion for science, studying biochemistry and neurological science at the University at Albany, graduating in 2017. However, as we​ all know,⁢ life has a knack for ‌throwing curveballs and altering⁣ even the‍ most⁣ meticulously⁣ planned paths.

During a⁣ gap year while applying to⁢ medical schools, his ⁢mother, Simone, proposed a new venture: opening ‍a small restaurant in‌ West Coxsackie, focusing⁣ on the type⁢ of ⁤home-cooked ⁣meals she was known for. Chedrawee ⁣agreed to⁣ help, and⁢ thus, Simone’s⁢ Kitchen was⁣ born.

The quaint eatery was ⁣an instant hit.

“The ⁣response was overwhelming. Within‌ a⁣ week, we had a queue ⁣stretching out the door,” Chedrawee reminisces. The unexpected‍ success was more than ⁢Simone had bargained for, and ‌she⁤ decided to step back. However, the sudden popularity of Simone’s Kitchen sparked a⁣ new passion in her son.

“That’s ​when I ‌realized the potential of this venture and‌ decided to withdraw my applications to ​medical school,” he confessed.

Driven by​ the success ‍of Simone’s⁢ Kitchen, Chedrawee ⁢decided to expand ⁤into the Capital Region. In ⁣2022, along⁣ with partners Shan Kaurejo and Julianna Trombley, he established a new Simone’s Kitchen, a fast-casual Mediterranean restaurant located at 121 Jay St. in Schenectady.

“We considered many locations in the Capital Region, but Schenectady ⁣stood out as an ‌up-and-coming area,” Chedrawee explained.‌ “The Schenectady location quickly became a success.”

“This business is a testament to a mother’s love for ​feeding⁤ her children, and we aim to extend that​ love to the ⁢community,” Chedrawee said, summarizing his philosophy.

The restaurant, still⁢ bearing his mother’s name, ‍offers a variety ​of Mediterranean⁤ dishes,⁢ from ‌chicken⁢ shawarma to falafel ⁣to fresh‌ salads. It also features small‌ plates ​called mezza, which include ⁣hummus and other flavorings such ⁤as garlic, za’atar, and tahini. Chedrawee noted that many dishes are adjusted to suit the‍ local⁢ palate.

In just 18 months, Simone’s⁢ Kitchen has‌ won two Schenectady Soup ​Strolls⁣ and received‍ other accolades.

Chedrawee, ​born‌ to Lebanese parents in Ghana, moved⁣ to the United States at the age of‍ 8. His ‍family established‍ Albaraki, a ‍Lebanese restaurant in Troy ⁢and later Cohoes, where‍ he worked as a teenager.

“Even though I ‌wasn’t ‌involved in the core of the business, I ‍gained a good understanding of the industry,” ⁤he said.

Simone’s Kitchen‌ in ⁣Schenectady‌ has approximately 50 seats ‌and employs 20 people. The ⁣business model is‍ about 60% dine-in and 40% takeout. The restaurant uses a service-line model ‍where customers‍ order at one⁣ end‍ of a​ long⁤ counter ⁤and ‌watch their meal being prepared as they move towards the cash register.

“We have customers coming from⁤ Saratoga, Albany, Troy,” ​Chedrawee said. “The space is modern and relaxing.⁣ We aim to provide a luxury experience that is affordable for everyone.”

Simone’s Kitchen⁢ is also known for its⁤ generosity towards its‌ employees,⁢ offering ⁤them⁤ at least $16.50 per hour ⁤with tips, free‌ and discounted food, ‍a gym membership, telemedicine ⁤access, and retirement contributions for those who ‌work more than 23 hours ‍per week.

“We prioritize our people, our⁣ space, our customers, ⁤and​ then profit,” Chedrawee said in⁤ a previous Daily⁣ Gazette interview.

Beyond Simone’s Kitchen, Chedrawee has ​shown an ⁤entrepreneurial spirit, branching out to ‌other food services and planning for other businesses on Jay Street.

The original Simone’s Kitchen in Coxsackie, which closed for renovation during ⁣the ⁤COVID pandemic, is expected to reopen this ​spring, creating another ‌20 jobs.

Simone’s Kitchen has also‌ started⁢ providing food⁢ service at a bar and music venue a few doors down⁣ on Jay Street.

Chedrawee is also⁣ seeking financing ⁢for a⁢ couple of⁤ other ideas⁤ that could bring new businesses to the Jay ​Street⁤ mall.

One of these ideas is Connie’s Confectionary, a dessert shop where amateur bakers can sell ⁤their sweet goods on a consignment ⁣basis.‍ The other is Connie’s Creative Market, ‌a place‍ where artists and artisans can sell their creative products by consignment.

“There is no actual ‘Connie’ – it’s just a name that​ sounds appealing,” Chedrawee clarified.

Chedrawee is ⁣excited⁣ about doing⁣ business in downtown Schenectady.

“It⁢ has all the elements of a thriving, ​vibrant area, especially downtown. It’s really fueled by the arts, cultural and entertainment⁣ scene. There’s‌ great energy here.”

Simone⁣ Chedrawee, although no longer involved in her son’s ⁤restaurants,⁣ is still active in the food industry. She is currently overseeing ⁢the preparation of about ‍300 senior citizen meals per week under⁢ a contract with the Schenectady‍ County Office for the Aging.

“The meals are⁤ conventional American ⁢fare rather than Middle Eastern, but we do try to use⁢ more‌ fresh and​ healthy ingredients than what such meals often contain,” Bashir Chedrawee added.

Kiara Thomas
Kiara Thomas
I uncover quirky and compelling stories. Always on the lookout for the 'why' behind the 'what'.
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