The Chef’s Corner expands to offer grab-and-go options

The Chef’s Corner expands to offer grab-and-go options
The grab-and-go shop sells salads, soups, wraps, desserts and more. (Photo by Annabel Hofmann)

A local favorite is now also grab-and-go. The Chef’s Corner Cafe, a Mineola staple for the past 11 years, recently opened a takeout shop right next to the original location.

“Everything is homemade and with love, with care,” said Maryellen Villalta, co-owner of The Chef’s Corner. “We care about our customers, and they needed something so they could get out really fast. So I’m trying to make something so they can get out really fast.”

Located next to the Mineola train station and NYU Langone Hospital, the Chef’s Corner is surrounded by busy people who don’t have time to sit down for a meal. Villalta hopes to provide nutritious and delicious food in a way that fits into packed schedules.

“You can really change a person’s day [with food], especially the people that we do,” Villalta said. “It’s nurses, doctors, the hospitality staff in the hospital. They need a pick-me-up. We provide that.”

The grab-and-go stand is brightly lit with a display case of delicious looking soups, salads, wraps, desserts and more. Villalta explained that was part of the appeal – being able to show off the café’s culinary creations.

She also made sure to credit co-owner and chef Israel Aguilar with keeping that fridge stocked.

“He makes all our dressings, all our soups. Everybody gets excited and they ask, ‘What soup do you have today?’ because his soups are just amazing,” Villalta said. “He doesn’t go by a standard recipe. It’s like, what do I have? What’s my inspiration? He does it his way, and his way is always better.”

A Valley Stream native, Villalta started college but left when she realized it wasn’t for her. She then attended the Institute of Culinary Education for management, before working for Sarabeth’s in New York City, where she met Aguilar.

Villalta and Aguilar opened The Chef’s Corner more than 10 years ago after they moved out to Garden City.

“He always drove past this actual location, and it was the first place we looked at,” she said. “We just kind of went balls to the wall.”

Fast forward to today and the location next door to their café became available, and they saw a market to be leveraged.

“There’s no place around here where everything’s premade and fresh,” Villalta said. “All our stuff is very fresh and thought out and quick.”

Villalta mostly lets Aguilar do the cooking, but she makes the desserts and helps with generating ideas. To her, working in the food industry is an adrenaline rush that leaves her craving more.

“I really just love like the fast pace and craziness, the controlled chaos. I just love that feeling,” she said. “I like the running around making people happy.”

The first three weeks have shown promise for the grab-and-go version of the café, and Villalta is excited for what the future holds.

“We’re not making a million dollars yet, but we definitely have foot traffic. People come in for coffee. we’re convenient,” she said. “I just think in the summer, we’re really going to blow up.”

The Chef’s Corner in Mineola expanded to include a grab-and-go shop. (Photo by Annabel Hofmann)

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