Photo By Will Masters (Photo Caption: Chef Colette McNitt and Owner Caleb Watters)
Story By Christina Heintzelman – email@example.com
The Hershey Pantry has been in existence since 1990 with new owner, Caleb Watters, taking over the helm and celebrating his first year of ownership in January 2023.
Part of the longevity of this favorite eatery, winning Harrisburg Magazine’s Simply the Best and Readers’ Choice awards for many years in both Best Breakfast and Best Brunch, is due to Chef Colette McNitt, who has been a chef for twenty-seven years.
“I started here with Jim and Cindy Hess, the original owners, and have been here ever since,” says McNitt. She then adds, “I’ve worked in a few of the then-owned Hess restaurants at some of their locations, but mostly in The Hershey Pantry. It is exciting to now work with our new owner, Caleb Watters, and remain a part of this great team.”
Originally McNitt thought that her job at Hershey Pantry would get her through college when she would then enter the business world. “It didn’t work out that way and I am perfectly happy having remained here with Hershey Pantry, as I have always enjoyed cooking. So, whenever I would think that I might be ready to move on, there was another building to open or business to manage. My home is here!” McNitt’s degree is in business management and, in addition to her role as head chef, she is also the general manager at Hershey Pantry and oversees many of the daily duties necessary to keep this operation running smoothly.
Menu planning for the extensive breakfast and lunch menu includes bi-weekly specials which are planned ahead by the seven kitchen staff overseen by McNitt. “It is a team effort and I pick everyone’s brains for new ideas, although I love being the creator of new soups that are usually introduced weekly.” These soups always have a seasonal flair to them, such as apple butternut squash, sweet potato and ham, and pumpkin mushroom, all served during the fall. “Soup is in my brain, and I often do not have written recipes for them.” She adds, “I certainly can’t take credit for everything that happens in the kitchen as the team is amazing and everyone loves to have input. It is very enjoyable for me to watch the kitchen staff come up with their ideas as they each come from a different background and bring a variety of ideas to the table. I could not do this without them.” McNitt says that there are staples at The Hershey Pantry which may never leave the menu because of their broad appeal – items such as dill chicken salad, baked oatmeal, and stuffed French toast. The menu is varied, as there are the staple items that have appeared on the menu for years, new recipes invented by staff, and of course, McNitt’s many additions to the extensive menu.
She mentions the customers who have returned time and again for many years and how great it is to see and interact with regulars who sometimes visit the restaurant for breakfast or lunch daily. She adds that customer return after the Covid shutdown was phenomenal. “People were ready to come back out and enjoy our great food and interact with staff.”
McNitt is the mother to two teenage sons and says, “It is great that they are now at the age where I can just prep items and put them in the refrigerator for later use by the family.” She jokes about free time (“What’s that?!”) but does say that she is often on the look out for new food ideas and presentations that will appeal to the broad range of customers that Hershey Pantry attracts. “Presentation is so important as you want every dish to leave the kitchen looking beautiful and tasting delicious.” She does find time to read a large variety of books and work out at the gym – not to mention keeping the family home in order.
The Hershey Pantry is open daily for breakfast and lunch with an amazing brunch available for a satisfying start to any weekend. If you enjoy an Afternoon Tea, served on a beautiful three-tiered platter, stop by any day between 1pm – 3pm for this very special treat consisting of a baked scone, a cup of soup, pantry club, and your choice of tea. The restaurant is a great mix of trendy urban eating place with the feeling of a cozy, relaxing atmosphere created by the enclosed, all-season porch, complete with a glowing fireplace and beautiful décor. A cocktail menu has also been added for extra mealtime enjoyment (yes please!): a spicy Bloody Mary, Mimosa, or Morning Margarita – the perfect addition to any brunch.
The Hershey Pantry, located at 801 E. Chocolate Ave, Hershey, is open daily, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., Saturday and Sunday from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., with all day breakfast available. They are vegetarian friendly and have vegan options. Please note that The Hershey Pantry does not accept reservations. Find more information on their website, www.hersheypantry.com; or on Facebook: The Hershey Pantry.