By Destiny Rodriguez
If you’re looking for a hot meal and a slice of Southern hospitality, look no further than Cook’s Buffet, Cafe & Bakery at 704 N. Woodland Blvd. in DeLand.
Located on the edge of the Stetson University campus, Cook’s brings a traditional holiday dinner and other classic dishes to the table.
The Cook family has been providing a dining experience with friendly service in DeLand since 1959, aiming to make every meal feel like a holiday in the remodeled 100-year-old building.
The buffet-style restaurant remains a family affair. The DeLand location was once one of 14 Holiday House restaurants throughout Central Florida. The chain was created by Bob and Willa Cook in 1959, but the restaurant in DeLand was closed following a kitchen fire.
Bob worked to remodel while his son Michael Cook Sr. branched out into opening two of his own DeLand cafes over the following years. When Bob Cook died, Michael Sr. inherited the property and original Holiday House building. After a thorough remodeling, he opened Cook’s Buffet, Cafe & Bakery in April 2011.
Michael Sr. and his wife, Star, recruited their son Michael Cook Jr. to be the restaurant’s assistant manager.
“What I ate growing up is what I’d be eventually cooking and preparing,” Michael Jr. said.
“For over 50 years, there has been a member of the Cook family cooking in the kitchen, and the tradition lives on,” the restaurant’s website proudly states.
Cook’s brings people together over good food in a friendly atmosphere, and is a key part of many families’ happy memories.
Cook’s Buffet prides itself on fresh, quality ingredients in the variety of entree choices and seasonal vegetables. Dishes are seasoned with herbs grown in a garden on the premises.
I started with a salad made especially for me: crisp lettuce and spinach tossed in a creamy ranch dressing with cherry tomatoes, carrots, cucumbers and red onion.
The vegetable selection rotates throughout the day, and when you return for a free second helping, you may find new options. My choices were steamed broccoli and well-seasoned green beans, which paired nicely with my main course.
I typically stick to staple foods that I have grown to love as comfort meals, but the aroma of savory entrees on the Cook’s buffet — from lamb to turkey pot pie — gave me the courage to experiment. I settled on a house-favorite: Parmesan-crusted basa, a Southeast Asian catfish.
My choice was praised by my helpful server Heather Collins, one of the newest additions to Cook’s team. She moved here from St. Augustine four months ago, and quickly made new connections through her job at Cook’s.
“I have met so many awesome people,” she said. “I have a lot of regulars, and I enjoy seeing them.”
The light and satisfying fish was baked to perfection, golden and crispy with every bite. By the time I was finished with my first round, I was ready for one of the many sweets displayed in a glass case visible as you make your way through the buffet line.
After my server listed the many deserts available, from carrot cake to Boston cream pie, I opted for a generous slice of chocolate cake. The chocolate confection was moist and decadent, the perfect finale for my homestyle meal.
To help you celebrate, Cook’s offers a complementary made-to-order cake for special occasions with four or more guests.
“We’re always trying to create an experience,” Michael Jr. said.
Cook’s strives for quality and consistency. If you’d like to see how it’s done, Cook’s offers tours of the kitchen to customers.
Michael Jr. said he and his father remain involved in the cooking and in the creation of the customer experience.
“We’re always the first ones here in the morning. We try to create an environment they want to come back to time and time again,” Michael Jr. said.
Cook’s is currently offering takeout and curbside pickup for your convenience.
— Rodriguez is a student at Stetson University who is interning with The Beacon during the spring semester. Have a suggestion for a restaurant for her to profile? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.