Chef Stephen Craig Merkel
My earliest memories involve two key ingredients: food and family. I remember mornings starting with breakfast and the doling out of chores–and evenings punctuated by family dinner and prayers. My mother, a kindergarten teacher, and my father, an IBM exec, did their best to provide their five children with the sense that the family dinner was the appropriate ending to a day well lived–whether that living included jobs, school or leisure time. It was a time for my brother, three sisters and I to share our experiences and ideas, as well as our bread and butter.
My sense of food as the centerpiece of daily life only increased as I matured. When I graduated from Immaculate HS in 1984 though, I was unsure of the direction I wanted my life to take. I was drawn to jobs at local restaurants including Chuck’s Steak House in Danbury and the old Christopher’s in Brookfield. But after working for a while, I realized I wanted training, I wanted skills, I wanted to perfect the image of the centerpiece of daily life: food! In the fall of 1986, I matriculated at the Culinary Institute of America and was on my way! The capstone of my CIA experience was an apprenticeship at the legendary Chatham Bars Inn in Cape Cod under Chef Al Hynes. After graduation in the spring of 1988, I became a permanent part of Chef Hynes’s crew working summers at Chatham Bars in the Cape and winters at the Belleview Biltmore in Belleair, Florida.
After two years with Chef Al, I began to look for a more permanent lifestyle. I bounced around a bit, landing a gig at Morefar, and finally spending some time researching the deli business. Ultimately, in 1990, I started Steve’s Deli and Wine and Roses Catering in New Milford, CT. For 30 years and in 2 locations (both on Danbury Road) in New Milford, I have been feeding the hungry of our area in the tradition of Merkel family meals. Steve’s always has tables to eat at–both inside and out–and strives to provide our guests with homemade food and a home-style experience.
Over the years, I have integrated my personal research and development into the Steve’s experience. Trips to Napa with my late friend and mentor, Peter Perkins, have helped fuel our catering vision and inform the deli specials, and our work with Andrea Immer aids in menu development and refining flavor profiles. Our catering work ranges from race teams at Limerock, to rock concerts, to weddings–and everything in between. A Steve Merkel catering event can be an intimate wine tasting for a small group of friends, or a wedding for hundreds. A Steve’s Deli sandwich will always have that familiar abundance of food–but also that echo of the extraordinary–a roasted pepper, a caramelized onion, a dash of chipotle, a chunk of ripe avo.
All Steve Merkel events are part of our ever growing list of “specialties.” We locally source our produce and proteins, as well as our services and vendors. Steve’s has had 30 years of successfully serving Litchfield, Fairfield, Putnam and Westchester counties. Come see us at our flagship location at 562 Danbury Road, New Milford, CT. Let me, or my highly trained staff make you a bacon, egg and cheese–loaded with bacon and always two eggs–for breakfast, or a bacon romano for lunch. Or come on Fridays in July and August for Lobster Fest.
Come to Steve’s Deli and be reminded of this simple truth: food is life.