Friday June 24, 2016
Chef AnnMarie Nelms can remember teaming up with her great-aunt Helen to prepare Easter meals for her big, Greek Orthodox family.
Thea Helen, as her family called her – thea is the Greek word for aunt -- could make beautiful sweet breads (tsoureki), zucchini fritters, moussaka, and a tomato sauce spiked with cinnamon in the Greek style.
“When we do Easter, it’s an all-out feast. We cook for days,” Nelms said.
Those memories form the backdrop for Nelms’ new restaurant, THEA, which is inspired by Thea Helen’s love for the art of handcrafted foods and providing a meal that delivers an experience.
“My Thea Helen, she was one of my most favorite people ever,” Nelms said. “She loved the kitchen, she loved to cook. You can tell when people love what they do and when they don’t.”
When it opens this fall, THEA will be one more local business hand selected by Charter to become part of Arcona Crossroads, a place to shop, exercise, eat, or just relax. The shops are connected by wide sidewalks and shaded by trees where people can take a break from their everyday routine and connect with friends, both old and new, anytime, all just a few steps from their front door. THEA will join other businesses, including Bevrore Contemporary Portraits, Red Salon, The Arcona Athletic Club, Pure Gallery, and The Studio by Absolute Pilates.
This is Nelms’ second partnership with Charter. With her mother, Sophia, she operates two other restaurants, Sophia’s on Market in Camp Hill and Sophia’s at Walden, which is where they and Charter Homes & Neighborhoods first got together.
“Charter brought in a team of people to talk about my kitchen,” Nelms said. “That was huge. Most people don’t get to sit in a room with amazing people and talk about a kitchen.”
“We are very excited THEA is moving into Arcona,” said Ross Gibson, a recent homebuyer whose Charter home is going to begin construction next month. “It’ll be an easy walk to get dinner every evening.”
THEA, created to deliver a handcrafted dining experience, will feature a 75 seat dining room designed and finished to be comfortable and relaxing. Gentle whites and greys highlighting simple trim and a large fireplace at the end of the space, as well as tables covered with tablecloths, provide a wonderful place to enjoy conversation. It will also include AnnMarie’s Table, a custom, hand-built wood slab table designed for 12 guests and centered in a private room off the kitchen with its own fireplace. There, AnnMarie will host special nights for those who reserve this space with her. “We already have a waiting list for people to enjoy my table when we open,” Nelms said.
Nelms’ vision for THEA doesn’t just draw influence from her Greek heritage. She’s also part German. She’s planning a homemade sauerkraut and experimenting with a house-made pastrami. Other dishes she’s excited about are her beer-battered halibut, fresh pappardelle with homemade meat balls and red Sause, a signature lemon chicken orzo soup, and chicken pot pie.
Local produce is at the heart of her plans. Her mother’s boyfriend, Trevor Sybrandt, will be operating a nearby farm to provide fresh produce for THEA.
“It’s going to be really great, really fresh,” Nelms said.