Tastes like home

Chef Paul Brewer brings his passion for food and people to Charlestown

Created date

May 23rd, 2019
Chef Paul Brewer is the executive chef at Charlestown’s Short Line Café.

Chef Paul Brewer is the executive chef at Charlestown’s Short Line Café.

Like a true Marylander, Chef Paul Brewer got his first taste of the culinary industry as a teenager steaming crabs at a seafood restaurant. After college, he pursued a career in hospitality and honed his skills at restaurants throughout the region. But the moment he set foot on Charlestown’s campus four years ago, he really found his calling. 

Now, as executive chef of the community’s newly renovated Short Line Café, Brewer pursues his passion for serving the people who call the Catonsville, Md., Erickson Living community home.

“I’ve always had a passion for food and for people,” says Brewer. “There’s a very unique culture here at Charlestown. It’s a culture of service. That is our primary goal. We strive to create dishes that you would expect to get in any nice restaurant, but we also focus on developing relationships with our customers. I interact with the people dining at the Short Line Café every single day. They all know me by name.”

Charlestown features a wide variety of distinctive on-site dining options—seven to be exact—so Brewer’s goal is to keep residents coming back to the Short Line Café. To that end, he’s created a versatile menu that includes regular entrées like seared pork chops with sautéed apples, grilled panini sandwiches, and house-smoked meats including bacon, pastrami, beef brisket, and corned beef, as well as weekly specials comprised of new entrées, sides, and desserts.

“Thanks to Chef Paul, who is incredibly creative, our residents are able to enjoy everything from a simple cup of soup to a made-to-order meal featuring fresh, house-made ingredients,” says Charlestown’s Director of Dining Aida Blanco Galindo.

Brewer says Charlestown’s large size is one of the features that differentiate the community from its competitors and drives his creativity.

“Most retirement communities are central-kitchen based, meaning there is only one kitchen that prepares all of the food served in the community. At Charlestown, each restaurant is managed independently, which keeps us on top of our game,” says Brewer.

Local flavor

As a matter of fact, while the café underwent a complete renovation in 2018, Brewer took the liberty of adding some flavor to the new menu by incorporating local history.

“The café is named after the Short Line Railroad, so I thought it would be fun to conduct some research on the history of the railroad,” says Brewer. R

As a result, the café menu features a B & P burger, for the Baltimore & Potomac Railroad that ran along the Short Line; a French dip named The Cattle Car; and even a hot dog named after the former Baltimore Orioles slugger, Babe Ruth.

“You can get a hot dog anywhere, but you can only get a Babe Ruth at the Short Line Café,” says Brewer.

Plenty of options

While every apartment home includes a well-equipped, modern kitchen, many Charlestown residents find themselves spending less and less time over the stove.

Residents can select a daily meal plan, which provides one meal for every day of a given month at any of Charlestown’s on-site restaurants or a 20-meal plan, which provides 20 meals in any calendar month. Both plans allow residents to allocate meals any way they choose.

Donald Lampe has been a regular at the Short Line Café for the last decade. With so many dining options, Donald says he never cooks.

“I meet a group of friends at the Short Line every night for dinner. I like so many of the dishes, it’s really hard to pick one favorite,” says Donald. “I love seafood, so whenever they have salmon, I always get it. I’ve even acquired a taste for things I previously disliked, for example, brussels sprouts, which the chef prepares with a sauce that makes them delicious.”

Brewer works in unison with his team of highly trained support staff to keep the café running smoothly.

“One of the first things I look for when I hire someone is their character and whether or not they believe in the culture and mission statement of Charlestown. Once I find that, I can train anyone to acquire the necessary skills,” says Brewer.

At the end of the day, Brewer says it’s the culture and values that make Charlestown a great place to work, live, and perhaps most importantly, eat! Those values are part of a company-wide philosophy known as The Erickson Way, which ascribes to seven key components: respect and caring, diversity, friendliness and enthusiasm, integrity, responsibility, excellence, and teamwork.   

“It’s extremely rewarding to work for a great company with such great people,” says Brewer. “The residents and staff here are like family to me and I love being able to share the gift of a great meal with them.”