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After two years of serving up intermittent, special-event dinners, Cress Restaurant is resuming five-nights-a-week service at 103 W. Indiana Ave. in Downtown DeLand.

Reopening night is set for Thursday, Aug. 15, but the regular service will be available Tuesday through Saturday nights. Would-be diners can walk in anytime between 5 and 9 p.m. and be served, said chef and principal owner Hari Pulapaka, who’s also a full-time Stetson University professor.

While the owners emphasize that Cress was never closed, just operating on an intermittent schedule, the resumption of nightly service is at least partially due to the addition of a partner who will take over the managerial duties.

Pulapaka said the menu will continue to be “thoughtfully inspired.”

“The emphasis will be on local sourcing” of the food, he said. “But it could be from elsewhere if the quality is good and environmentally sound principles are used.”

Pulapaka’s wife and co-founder, Dr. Jenneffer Pulapaka, who has a full-time podiatry practice, now will be able to focus more on her duties as the restaurant’s sommelier.

“I am able to return my focus back to wine and developing a progressive well-rounded wine list representing multiple regions,” she said. “Wine flights, wine cocktails, and nonalcoholic drinks will give our guests more options, as well as opening up our bar area again.”

The new partner, Tom Brandt, will be the general manager and daily operations manager. Those duties had been handled by Jenneffer Pulapaka.

“Cress will still be the classic chef-driving restaurant it’s always been, but I am not a certified chef,” Brandt said. “I was a general manager at Ruth’s Chris Steak House for more than 20 years, and I was also GM for Chart House restaurant, and ran a Thai food truck with my wife, Suran, for about four years while I was at Ruth’s Chris.”

Suran will partner with her husband to help manage the restaurant and waiting on tables, he said.

Cress is not a large restaurant, with only about 40 seats. A front patio dining area will not reopen until a city-sponsored streetscape project on West Indiana Avenue is completed, Brandt said.

The Pulapakas say that adding Brandt as general manager will allow Cress to grow even more than it has in its first 11 years of existence.

“We are partnering with Tom so we can collectively expand beyond what we’ve been able to do in the past, and expanding our footprint beyond DeLand and Central Florida,” Hari said.

“Yes, we are creating a toolbox that will help us scale projects in the future, making our tasty creations more accessible,” Jenneffer said.

As Cress nears its 12th anniversary at the end of this month, Pulapaka listed some of the many honors he has earned as the restaurant’s executive chef.

He is a four-time semifinalist for the James Beard Award for Best Chef South and a two-time nominee for Food & Wine Magazine’s The People’s Best New Chef. He serves on the advisory board of the Chef Action Network (CAN). He is also a 2013 participant on the Monterey Bay Seafood Watch Blue Ribbon Task Force.

Pulapaka and Cress continue to champion sustainability issues in Central Florida, including maintaining an active program to reduce or eliminate food waste.


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