2016 is going to see at least one person’s wildest dreams come true in Mena, of all places. You see, Amye Hebert, owner of Stache’s Cookery, is leaving the restaurant business. But instead of selling it or handing it down to a family member, Herbert is giving it away to one lucky winner. That’s right: somebody will win their own restaurant, the land it sits on, the furniture, the kitchen appliances and everything inside the building. Oh, and Herbert will also give the winner $25,000 to make the place their own.
I know. It’s crazy, right?
Before we start talking about how you could own your very own restaurant, let’s go back a bit to see how all this came to pass. Hebert moved to Mena from Dallas with her husband. It was her dream to own her own place, and together, she and her husband made it happen. Hebert reopened Spilnelli’s Italian Grill and enjoyed some success. Eventually, Hebert rebranded Spinelli’s into Stache’s Cookery and made it her own.
Hebert was forced to leave her business in 2013, when a bad kitchen accident left her with serious burns that required a full year of treatment. Hrbert made a full recovery, but suddenly had another major challenge to confront.
“I became a full-time caretaker for my parents the same week I got the restaurant back,” said Hebert. “It was juggling a lot, so I thought, maybe we can make this work. As we have experienced and lived through this past year and a half … when you have a passion to serve and own a restaurant, that’s your dream, you have to live it.”
Hebert says she’s gotten to live her dream, and now wants to give that opportunity to someone else. And that’s where the contest comes in.
“I’d like to find someone who has the ability to be in the kitchen and the skills to work in a kitchen,” says Hebert. “I think that’s very important, you have to be able to work every aspect of a restaurant. You can’t just be good in the front of the house, you can’t just be good in the kitchen. Our ideal candidate is the person who has the passion to serve but also the skill to work in the kitchen.”
Ok, now for the contest details. From now until July 30th, you can visit the restaurant’s website and submit your entry, which consists of an original, “signature” recipe and a 200-word essay on why owning a restaurant is your dream. The contest costs $150 to enter. Beginning in August, the staff of Stache’s will go through the entrants and whittle them down to three finalists. Those three finalists will be flown to Mena to cook for 50 Stache’s regulars. Those regular customers will vote, and the winner of that vote gets the restaurant and $25,000.
“It’s the real deal, it’s not a ‘too good to be true’ thing,” said Hebert. “I wouldn’t want someone to think they don’t have the winning recipe. We’re not looking for something that is going to be so over-the-top. One of the key aspects is to understand the community you’ll be serving. We’re real people, and we’re really trying to give someone the opportunity to succeed and live their dream.”
In fairness, Hebert isn’t exactly taking a major loss in this contest. The rules state that the contest will only move forward if the a minimum of 6,000 people enter. At $150 per entry, that amounts to a minimum of $900,000 if the contest happens (presumably less the $25,000 the winner will receive). And if fewer than 6,000 people sign up, the refunds sent out will be for $125, meaning if the contest only receives half of the minimum entries, $75,000 will still be kept back. Still, one person out there will win a restaurant for $150, which is a pretty remarkable thought.
So that’s it. Be sure to read the contest rules closely before you enter. Who knows? You could end 2016 with your very own restaurant. Be sure to check out the video below with more information about the contest.
All photographs property of Stache’s Cookery and are used by permission.