Carvers Deli & Barbecue co-owners Chip and Barb Powers were two hours away from opening their eatery Wednesday, but it smelled like they had been making food for an army.
The Powers first opened the restaurant in 2010 in the North Atherton Wal-Mart plaza.
Chip Powers didn’t share any of his secret ingredients, but he gave insight into how they carved out their niche in State College.
Q: Did you own anything before this?
A: We had no restaurant experience. We just decided this when I had a career change. I was the business of manufacturing medical devices for 25 years, and we just decided that State College might need a void filled for freshly prepared meats for delis and barbecues. I’d been a longtime cook as a hobby. We decided looking around for spaces in the area and thought this was the best one.
Q: Why was this space the best fit for you?
A: Well, I did really extensive research on every space and the surrounding demographics. I really looked at every space around the city available, and this was what I was looking for. I spent about four months just analyzing and researching it and spending money on a build-out. This infrastructure was nice, and I had to fit the kitchen in. It was everything we wanted and needed.
Q: How did it work out that you changed careers?
A: I was offered a job in North Carolina. That was on the table, but at that point we didn’t feel like moving. We wanted to stay in State College and raise our family. I was a State High grad, and Barb is from Philipsburg, so we wanted to be here. I’ve always been a barbecue chef as a hobby and felt we could have a real niche offering deli sandwiches and barbecue. We picked a good niche.
Q: Were you ever trained as a chef?
A: No, self-taught. Since I was a child I enjoyed cooking. My mom showed me the basics. I’m like everyone else. I love to eat. So, I wanted to learn to cook good food ... To tell you the truth I started making breakfast food because my mom liked to sleep in. When I was old enough I started grilling out. My dad always used to burn the chicken when he was cooking it. I was also fascinated with cooking. It was just enjoyable to learn everything from Thai to Italian.
Q: What are some challenges you face?
A: Everything is our responsibility, but when you like what you do, you don’t think of the challenges. That’s a good question, though. I guess the challenge would be meeting the demand. That can put a little bit of a strain on you. For instance, we have food for 200 people going out tomorrow. You have to plan that ahead and be prepared. Otherwise, when you own your business and enjoy it you don’t really see it as difficult or a challenge. You get up and go to work.
Q: Why’d you add catering to the business?
A: Truth is, in a small restaurant like this it would be very difficult to pay the bills without the catering. If we didn’t have any catering, we probably wouldn’t be in business. So, as soon as we got the word out about our restaurant opening we were also getting the word out about our catering.
Q: What is the largest catering job you’ve done?
A: The bigger ones are usually about 200 people, and those are the weddings. For 4th Fest we do catering for the VIP corporate sponsors, and that’s 300 people. They came in, and apparently we were recommended by someone on the board. They came in and did a taste test and picked us ... It’s a really fun event.
Q: What’s your favorite thing to make for yourself?
A: At home, a steak. A nice steak on the grill.