In a sense, Chef Eric Cleveland’s passion for cooking was woven into his DNA. Growing up in a big, Southern family, his grandmother taught him from an early age how to cook for large family gatherings. It was those memories of cooking in the kitchen with his relatives that inspired him to make a career out of creating memorable meals for others.
After graduating from The Culinary Institute of New York and working as the head chef for several other restaurant chains, Eric decided to bring his talents to Shoney’s, the iconic, all-American full-service restaurant brand that he grew up with.
In recent years, Shoney’s has gone through a brand revitalization, including a new restaurant design, the implementation of a full-service beverage bar, and a revamped menu. For Chef Cleveland – the brains behind the menu revamp – he had to create a menu that attracts a younger audience who is interested in healthier, more innovate dishes, while still appealing to Shoney’s legacy customers who have eaten at the restaurant for decades. His solution was to remove frozen ingredients from the menu and replace them with fresh food items.
He also added healthier, more creative options to the menu including wild-caught pacific salmon with sweet heat glaze and grilled chicken with cucumber & cranberry relish, and maintained some of Shoney’s classic menu items to keep tradition alive.
His hybrid menu has paid off. Since Shoney’s has undergone its brand transformation, year-over-year same store sales have been on the rise, and customers frequently cite the food quality as the reason they continue to return to the restaurant. * Chef Cleveland FBMag’s Q&A *.