​New Chef Aims for ‘Very Great’ at Valley Cove Bistro

by Kevin Cummings, Messenger Staff Writer

The house smells delectable as new executive chef Thomas Anderson speaks with a Jamaican accent mingled with a healthy scoop of Southern drawl. The finale to the “William Tell Overture” plays in the background.
Anderson, 51, is excited about plans for Valley Cove Bistro, which opened less than a year ago in the former Corner House in Cowan.
“We’re going to make it happen in Cowan, Tenn., and keep you guys from going to Nashville or Chattanooga,” he said enthusiastically. “I’m very confident that I can bring a new and very exciting quality dining experience to this area.”
Anderson started about two weeks ago and he’s already made a number of changes to the menu with more to come this spring. His maternal grandma, a chef at a country club in Greenville, S.C., taught him to cook.
“I loved her turnip greens; her turnip greens were the bomb, and her chicken and dressing,” he said.
Anderson, who holds an impressive 30-plus year culinary resume, specializes in Italian, French and Southern cuisine.
“I have passion for cooking,” he says as “Amazing Grace” now plays on the sound system. “For me, cooking is like a great love affair.”
A native of Fort Lauderdale, Anderson’s late mother was Jamaican and his dad is from New York. He moved to be a chef at the Maxwell House Hotel in Nashville after leaving Hyatt Regency in Greenville. Nashville was home for about 30 years, but his culinary skills took him to Europe, the Caribbean and Southeast Asia. Before coming to Valley Cove, he was a food and beverage consultant for places such as Sandals Resorts, Omni Hotels and privately-owned restaurants.
“I would basically go into restaurants having problems and I would retrain the staff, troubleshoot the whole thing and put it back together again,” he said.
In addition, he worked as a chef/manager at Radisson Hotel, was one of the opening chefs at Union Station Hotel in Nashville and owned a Caribbean restaurant in the Miami area. Food magazines including “Bon Appetit,” “Food Arts” and “Cooking Light” have featured Chef Anderson.
He said he will miss traveling as a consultant, but he wants to be close to his three daughters in Nashville.
“I needed something quieter and I’ve been traveling for quite a while so I decided to spend more time at home base and rekindle with the kids and grandkids,” he said.
After answering an ad and meeting with Ephraim Gammada, the Winchester doctor who owns Valley Cove Bistro, Anderson said he saw the potential. Customers seem pleased so far. Marianna Handler, who lives in the Sewanee area, ate lunch at Valley Cove on Jan. 31, just before closing time.
“So I had the place to myself. The chef served me himself and was very attentive, and very charming,” she said. “I will definitely go back as soon as possible. I had a very interesting onion soup and a chicken sandwich, which was perfectly grilled.”
Stephen and Dee Eichler of Sewanee recently ate at Valley Cove and said they plan to try the Ethiopian brunch soon. The Eichlers praised the service and called the restaurant quaint and elegant.
“It was a wonderful, relaxing place for lunch,” Dee said.
This is his “baby” and Anderson said a number of changes are coming.
Starting March 1, Valley Cove will add dinner from 5 to 9 p.m. in addition to serving lunch.
“Dinner will be a trendy, Southern-style with a little infusion of French cuisine,” he said.
Ethiopian brunch on Sundays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. will continue, but also in March, Anderson is adding traditional Southern cuisine to Sunday brunch, including a Southern-style tapas bar.
Anderson also plans to hire new wait staff and prep cooks with training comparable to a culinary college, he said. In addition to its catering service, Valley Cove will offer personal chef service this summer, where a chef prepares a meal right in a customer’s home. Cooking shows on the Internet and possibly on local television are also on the radar, as well as recipe books.
“People should know that now they have a very great restaurant starting up,” Anderson said. “You’ll be able to get very good meals of high quality, straight from local farmers to the table, all fresh ingredients and the prices will be very moderate.”
Valley Cove Bistro is at 401 Cumberland St. East in Cowan. Lunch hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., Anderson said. Dinner hours will be 5 to 9 p.m.