Bread’s Rising In Chester
Photo by Kieran Wagner.
Imagine making thousands of desserts at a time while manning an 80-quart mixing bowl. That was life for Drew Thomasson as pastry chef for an Orlando resort.
Now he brings his passion for the kitchen back to the tri-cities to Chester’s D’lish Bakery & Cafe. He opened the gourmet shop with his mother last November.
D’lish serves up a variety of fresh breakfast croissants, soups, breads, salads, sandwiches and desserts in addition to a variety of crafted espresso drinks.
“I always helped my mom out in the kitchen – baking by the time I could reach the oven,” Thomasson said. ”It’s always a natural thing for me. It took me a while to have the courage to do it professionally.”
Born in Florida, his family moved to the tri-cities area in early youth. Growing up in Dinwiddie and coming out in college, Thomasson said he’s had a very supportive family.
After receiving a degree in business from Old Dominion University, he needed a change of pace. He returned to Orlando to pursue culinary school.
Working in the hotel industry allowed Thomasson to work on his craft. ”It’s a rush – you’ve got pans lined up through the entire kitchen.”
Making desserts en masse at the resort didn’t give him much creativity.
“That was the downside. You’re producing all these desserts and they all have to the same, so you can’t really think about it as much,” he said. ”I wanted to see the customers and focus on the quality and not just the sheer quantity of the things I produced.”
Moving back to the area to start a family business was a natural step. His mother wanted to open a cafe for a long time and the opportunity was right in Chester Village. As co-owners, Thomasson manages the kitchen, while mom Melissa Tribble manages the front of house.
As a neighborhood shop to grab an espresso or have lunch, D’lish has also found a niche for custom wedding and birthday cakes.
But Thomasson’s favorite thing to bake?
“It’s one of those parts of baking where you get a true transformation,” he said. ”Taking the raw ingredients – it’s so hands on. You work with it every step of the way through the process. There’s just something about working the dough with your hands.”
All this baking makes for an early start to the day for Thomasson.
“I start my day at 4 a.m.,” he said. ”It’s harder to stay up late. I’m not a morning person but I have to be, so I’ve learned to survive on very little sleep. I can’t go out as much as I’d like to because of my schedule.
New schedule aside, since moving back last June, he has been able to reconnect with friends from high school and college and feels the Richmond area is ripe for growth.
“I think it’s a good place right now,” he said. ”Chester is growing. It’s getting a couple nods and I think it’s growing professionally,” he said. ”Chester’s under represented in the food scene.”
With D’lish, it looks like Thomasson will be changing that.
D’lish Bakery & Cafe is located at 11844 Chester Village Drive, Chester, VA 23831 and online at http://www.dlishbakeryandcafe.com/.
Kevin Clay is the editor and publisher of GAYRVA.COM. He is a Richmond native, loves the city and knows it's on the edge of greatness. Don't hold back RVA. You can follow Kevin on GAYRVA's Twitter or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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