by Linda Rowe
CAPE VINCENT, NY — Crave is the newest restaurant in Cape Vincent. It offers comfort food and crafty cocktails. In November 2017 owners Todd Sheffield and mom, Juanita Leidecker, began serving up an eclectic array of menu items, all made in-house. While this is Todd’s first venture into Cape Vincent’s food scene, he has over 30 years of experience in eateries in other places. After all, his passion for cooking was in his DNA from birth. He’s been chef at Pomodoro’s, Tapas, and Savannas in Rochester. He owned three restaurants in Florida: Hogs in a Pound Barbeque, New Orleans Bar and Grill and currently owns Blaze Bistro there. Crave in the Cape is his newest venture.
Todd likes to create dishes “from scratch”, even making his own salad dressings and seasoning blends. He prefers to use locally sourced products as much as possible, which is a big focus in the New York food scene. My mouth began to water as he talked about his barbeque focus at Savannas and I noticed his current menu includes a few barbeque options. I asked him if he had a signature “from scratch” dessert. He said that he couldn’t determine a clear customer favorite but noticed a lot of diners asked for his key lime pie. Todd’s Florida connection probably brings a touch of limey authenticity to this favorite of many.
I always ask what brings an entrepreneur to open a business in the Cape. Todd said he grew up in Rochester where his parents were in the education field. They bought a place here in the 1980s so he got to spend summers here and grew to love it. Life took him eventually to Florida where he opened restaurants. One day he realized he was tired of heat and hurricanes like Irma, and decided to move back to a location he knew had four seasons and almost non-existent hurricanes (who can forget 1951?) His mom said there was a restaurant for sale in the Cape he could consider. The rest is history. Todd told me he had wanted for some time to name a restaurant Crave because his repeat customers were always saying how they craved his food. His Florida area already had a Crave eatery so the name was kept in reserve. It fits perfectly here.
While Todd’s serious cooking efforts started when he was 15, he described growing up in a Sicilian family and always being in the kitchen with his mom and his grandma. His favorite cooking memories were Christmas Eve celebrations. Their tradition involved gathering together to clean calamari and prepare piscine delights for the Feast of the Seven Fishes, followed by Midnight Mass. The tradition of Italian-descent families eating seafood at recognized feast times is quite ancient, as the bounty of the Mediterranean Sea surrounded Sicily.
I asked Todd if he had any advice for other would-be entrepreneurs. He said most of his experience came the old-fashioned way in the school of hard knocks. It is a good teacher. He advises entrepreneurs to not let the voices of naysayers drown out their hopes and dreams. He said there will always be obstacles and strategies for finding solutions. As an example, he said he wants to offer more outdoor food options but needs to expand his current kitchen facility to be able to serve more customers. He would like to offer catering options in the future. His current strategy is to use his outdoor space in the rear if anyone were to want a wedding reception or similar function where a tent could be set up for outdoor service. Todd’s other piece of advice is to fully accept that you will be involved in your business, waking and sleeping. “Free” time may cease to apply to your life, especially in start-up phases.
Because Crave is open year-round, Todd has time for only one hobby; cooking! His longhaired dachshund fully understands, but welcomes other humans as new best friends, just in case she needs to “phone a friend”. He wants to thank Cape Vincent for welcoming him into the life of this community.
Crave opens its bar at 3 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Dinner service starts at 4:30 p.m. Sunday brunch is served from 10 a.m to 2 p.m. It is closed on Tuesdays.
Find them on Facebook at Crave in Cape. Website is craveincape.com. Crave is located at 194 East Broadway, phone (315) 501-4139.