David and Sandra Walker opened Bantam Chef in 1964. They went from "cotton fields to serving meals". David grew up on a farm in Chesnee, SC with his four brothers and two sisters, along with his hard working parents. David's mother and father gave him his hard working ethics. While working for his uncle, Burr Walker, "hopping the curb" as it's called when working at a car hop, the restaurant bug bit him and from then on it was in his blood. It was also in the blood of his family. His younger brother Calvin and his wife Annette own and operate a Bantam Chef in Union, SC, they have been in business for 40 Years.
The dream began back in 1959 David was managing a service station in Shelby, NC and Sandra was working as a Lab Tech at Spartanburg General Hospital. David was aware that there were Bantam Chef restaurants being built in South Carolina and Georgia. He researched and got the names of their owners, Ralph Whitmire and Roy Cambell of Easley, SC then he called them. They were opening one in Chester, SC relatively close to where they lived in Chesnee, and there happened to be an opening for a owner/operator. Realizing his dream, they packed up the U-Haul and moved to Chester. They enjoyed life there for five years until there was an opening for a manager at the restaurant in Chesnee. Sandra missed home so much they decided he would take the job and they would get back to their roots. They made the move with their growing family of three children. At the time; Melissa age 7, David age 5 and Travis age 2. They were all happy to be heading back home.
In they purchased the restaurant from the current owner, they ran it for a while as it was then in 1989 they had the old 40 seat restaurant torn down to make room for their new 180 seat building, which also included a small showroom where David has placed his MANY items of 1950's memorabilia, to include; A 1950 restored Studebaker and a 1958 BMW Isetta. Please visit the picture section of this website for pictures of the restaurant and the showroom. In addition to being a successful restaurateur, David is an avid collector of automobiles, he has over 150 vehicles in his collection, most of which are Studebakers, his favorite. Please visit the "CARS" portion of the website to see more.
When the children reached their teen years they all came to work at the restaurant, it was hard growing up when both parents were working hard to make a business successful, but it gave the children a sense of responsibility to the business. This is what they all thought a family business needed to be, to be successful. A lot of weekends have been worked in the last 40 years! Some have moved on to other things like Melissa, she now works in the Intensive Care Unit at Greenville Memorial Hospital as a Respiratory Therapist, she also works part time as a substitute teacher and is a member of the Auction Steering Committee. She and her husband own Lightning Lube -N- Lather on Main street. They have two children, ages 10 and 7. Melissa credits her families success to a loving, supportive, hard working husband and the wonderful example of her parents. Hard work, dedication and commitment never fails.
David and Travis continue to uphold the Walker legacy at the restaurant. David is using his God given artistic talent to make the children who visit the restaurant all kinds of caricature pancakes anything from, Mickey Mouse, Dora the Explorer to Monster Trucks. He also handles all of the restaurants advertising. Travis has been with the restaurant since he was a teenager and performs many functions like, working the grill and purchasing the food. Everyone that works with him says there is never a dull moment when he's around.
Bantam Chef aims to give their customers the best quality food, not the cheapest... their philosophy; it may take a bit longer, but it is prepared by order to make sure you get the freshest meal possible. They make their own hush puppies, tarter sauce, biscuits, slaw, chili and deserts. The fish and burgers are fresh and never frozen, the portions served are very good, and the prices? Cheap... They also carry items you won't find just anywhere; liver mush, bologna, chicken livers, ice cream floats, "Old Style" malts and as always, you can get a cup of coffee for only 25 cents. You can't find that anywhere!
Sandra and David are hands on employers, they work side by side with their employees to ensure that the food produced is the best possible. Without the hard work of their faithful employees, some of which have been with Bantam Chef for fifteen to twenty years, they would not have been able to maintain such a high quality restaurant. For that, they would like to offer a heartfelt thanks to their employees and of course to their loyal customers. To their children they would like offer a special thanks, they could not have done it without them.
"There's no place like home"