Catering to a village for 40 years at Current Cuisine
- Published: November 27, 2023
The days leading up to Thanksgiving are some of the busiest of the year at Current Cuisine. As always, there are a lot of local mouths to feed.
Whether it’s for the mashed potatoes smothered in gravy, the cranberry compote with just the right amount of sweetness, the stuffed acorn squash baked to perfection or the well-seasoned half turkeys, scores of Yellow Springs residents have depended on the downtown deli for their Thanksgiving meals for the last four decades.
This year marks a dual anniversary for Current Cuisine: 40 years of catering and 35 years selling prepared foods, meals and international groceries at 237 Xenia Ave.
Last week, co-owners Karyn Stillwell-Current and Steve Current took time out of their flurry of Thanksgiving preparations to sit down with the News and reflect on their 40 years of feeding the village.
“I think people really count on us,” Current said. “And hearing folks say so means a lot — it makes all the hard work worthwhile.”
Beaming, Stillwell-Current agreed with her husband.
“This town has been wonderful to us. What an amazing place to be,” she said.
The couple’s shared love of food has flavored their entire relationship. It’s what drew them together when they worked at the Winds Café in the early ’80s. Stillwell-Current waited tables while her husband-to-be worked in the kitchen — a front-of-house/back-of-house dynamic that persists today.
“That’s how it’s always been, that natural division,” Current said. “She tells me what to make and I make it. The same is true at home.”
“Yep. We hit it off right away,” Stillwell-Current agreed. “It just always felt so easy and right.”
Early in their relationship, one of Stillwell-Current’s regular customers at the Winds asked her if she and Current could cater a company party in Dayton. The pair agreed, and out of the little kitchen in their Stafford Street home, successfully whipped up enough food for all 200 attendees.
“All of a sudden, other people started calling us,” Stillwell-Current said. “We thought, ‘Wait a minute. We might have something here.’”
The pair did. To keep up with the mounting catering requests, they left the Winds and approached then-Village Council member Tony Bent about renting a commercial kitchen space in the John Bryan Community Center — which, at the time, had yet to become the Village offices.
It was 1983 and Current Catering was born.
The work was tough and the hours long in those early days, Current said. In addition to raising their two boys, Andrew and Johnathan, the couple also worked full-time day jobs.
“I’d be cooking during the day, and I’d be cooking at night,” Current said.
Over its five years in the Bryan Center, Current Catering’s business grew enormously. Each month, the pair catered more and more local events and occasions. Eventually, they began offering a delivery service for local residents.
“Hot box dinners and a whole gamut of things,” Current said of their ever-rotating delivery cuisine. “We’d pass out little menus to locals each week, and people would leave their orders on our answering machine.”
“And I’d drop them off,” Stillwell-Current said.
Five years later, the couple’s culinary pursuits would take on a new dimension. In 1988, Bruce and Carol Cornett sold their downtown space at 237 Xenia Ave., then known as the Village Green Grocer, a small homegrown produce shop.
With this brick-and-mortar location, Current Catering morphed into Current Cuisine.
“We didn’t even own a house at that point. We had no assets, nothing to lose, so we said we might as well try it,” Stillwell-Current said.
According to Current, their initial concept was to create a gourmet deli stocked daily with prepared food and the shelves full with some produce and ample international groceries. They’d keep the coolers full of staples such as tuna salad, chicken salad, salmon, hummus and other dips; and they’d make sandwiches and wraps to order for the lunch crowd.
Any recent customer of Current Cuisine’s would see that plan still in motion.
“I’m still making around 100 pounds of salmon each and every week,” Stillwell-Current said. “And that’s on top of the daily carrot cakes, triple chocolate cakes, hummus and spinach squares. People love these things, and they still have to be made every single day — otherwise, we’ll hear about it.”
Eventually, Current and Stillwell-Current added their rotating “Taste Of” menus that allowed the cooks to explore different flavors and dishes from around the world. Next weekend’s international menu is “A Taste of Italy,” featuring chicken cacciatore, garlic shrimp, cannolis and other Italian fare.
“Doing these ‘Taste Of’ weekends really helps to keep things different in the deli,” Stillwell-Current said. “They allow us to look up new recipes and try new things.”
All the while, the catering hasn’t stopped. According to the couple, Current Cuisine caters local events big and small nearly every weekend. Corporate gatherings at Mills Park Hotel, holiday parties, memorial services, private gatherings and more, Current Cuisine does it all — within reason.
“When we started, we did these huge weddings and fancy sit-down dinners for more than 250 people, but those kinds of events were just too stressful,” Stillwell-Current said. “It took a while to right-size for us. Just this week I’ve turned down three big weddings, and last week, United Way asked if we could feed 2,000 people. Nope. We’re done doing that.”
Current added, “Right. We’re trying to focus more on party trays.”
It hasn’t been all smooth sailing. Like many downtown Yellow Springs businesses, Current Cuisine was hit hard by the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. But unlike most village restaurants, Current Cuisine never shuttered; former Fire Chief Colin Altman deemed the deli an essential business.
“But still, we lost almost all of our foot traffic,” Current said. “Even with all the masks and plexiglass.”
So what did they do? The couple revived their old delivery model for a time.
“We started calling some of our regulars — especially our elderly customers — just to see if they needed anything,” Current said. “Asking, ‘What can we do for you?’ After a while, word caught on and other people’s home started ordering.”
Once again, Current kept busy in the kitchen while his wife hit the pavement, again bringing homemade, hot meals to people throughout the village.
“People were really grateful — and honestly, I didn’t know people cared that much,” Current said. “Folks kept saying, ‘Thank you for not closing,’ and ‘Please don’t go anywhere.’ There was just a lot of love.”
To wit, many of the same faces appear in the deli every day. While Current Cuisine benefits from crowded weekend days in the village, much of their customer base consists of locals — a fact the couple is proud of.
“We must be doing something right if people sometimes come in twice a day,” Current said with a laugh.
Now, with the holiday season in full swing, the culinary couple is focusing again on the catering side of the business.
“It’s a lot of responsibility,” Stillwell-Current said. “And a lot of pies. Last year we made 98 for Thanksgiving.”
Her husband added: “We’re making more than just food — we’re making memories for people. They’ll always remember if their pie was burnt or their turkey was dry, so we take extra care to make sure everything is right and well-seasoned. No skimping.”
While they may be working tirelessly and longer hours through the end of the year, the Currents nevertheless celebrate the holidays with their family — just as they do nearly every day. Their son Andrew Stillwell-Current and his fiance, Carra Spaugy, are among the 14 employees in the deli. Sixteen-year-old granddaughter Ayla can often be seen baking cookies and bars in the back.
“In fact, she just made her first wedding cake,” Stillwell-Current said.
Of this regular family affair and their 40 years serving and cooking for the village, Current and Stillwell-Current said they’re proud of their legacy. But four decades is a long time to do any one thing, and the couple is looking forward to an eventual retirement.
“I’m getting a little weary,” Current, 63, said with a chuckle.
“Especially right now,” Stillwell-Current, 68, agreed. “He’s been shorthanded in the kitchen for a while now. Working seven days a week over an oven is not easy for anyone.”
But retirement is still several years away, they said. In the meantime, they plan to stay the course — that is, feeding the many mouths of Yellow Springs and beyond each and every day.
Current Cuisine, located at 237 Xenia Ave, in downtown Yellow Springs, is open Sunday-Friday, 11 a.m.-7 p.m., and Saturday, 9 a.m.-7 p.m. For more information about their rotating menu and catering services, visit their website at currentcuisine.com