Local restaurateur opens another establishment

photo 4MONROE – Even after owning a restaurant for about 14 years, Gail Simms is still excited about bringing diner-style Southern food to her community.

The Skinny Cook, located at the Wishbone diner’s former spot at 1643 W. Franklin St., is Simms’s newest restaurant venture. She owns it in part with her husband, Johnny; her niece, Brandi Deese; and her niece’s husband, David Deese.

The Skinny Cook is “like a hometown diner,” Gail Simms said, with the name coming from an inside joke between the four owners.

“My dad always said never to trust a skinny cook,” Brandi Deese, who is making her first venture into the restaurant world, said.

Gail Simms is a restaurant veteran, having been co-owner of Seafood Haven 20 years ago. So she has the experience to help lead this new venture onward.

“You just get restaurant in your blood,” she said. “We just enjoy food, service and family and friends gathering where we are and feeding them; it’s great. I love to cook, but I also love to serve people.”

The Skinny Cook serves a variety of dishes such as subs, clubs, fettucine, spaghetti, shrimp and flounder. The menu is not predominantly seafood, like Simms’s previous restaurant, because the team decided to go into a different direction and “go with what’s available.”

“The opportunity just presented itself and we thought, “Sure, we can do this,’” she said.

Her love of the restaurant industry overshadows the long hours needed to own a business.

“But one of the greatest things we have going for us is we’re all family,” Simms said. “If somebody needs to leave, they leave and we cover them,” she said, adding her grandchildren come in to help on Saturdays. “It’s a great place for the kids to be… It’s a good family environment, that’s what we enjoy.”

The Skinny Cook has only been open since January, though the four owners are already making plans to expand the restaurant and add pit-cooked barbecue to the menu.

“That’s our goal (to have pit-cook barbecue) and to expand the building for more seating,” Simms said.

Those plans might not be too far off for the new restaurant, if business continues to flourish. “(Business) is going excellent. We have repeat customers and we have new customers,” Simms said. “As long as you keep those two going, you’re doing OK.”

The new business and family environment can be attributed to a lifetime of restaurant experience and learning lessons the hard way. “Never plan to spend more than you make,” Simms said as the advice she wishes someone would have told her. “Something always comes up.”

The Skinny Cook is open Monday through Saturday, 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Call the restaurant at 704-291-2325 for more information.

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