Fresh Start Café is a recent addition to downtown Sarasota dining, opened in the Winter of 2011/2012. It is a creation that presents what passion, talent, dream-following, and dedication bring about. Fresh Start Café is Rochelle Seldin and Hanna Schneider’s latest adventure but by all means not a first. These two ladies have been conquering their dreams for many years now. Hanna, a native Israeli began her culinary journey 18 years ago. Fresh from serving as a lieutenant in the Israeli Defense Force, Hanna who had always felt a pull towards the art of cooking followed her passion and entered the culinary program at N.Y.I.T, New York. Hanna says her privilege of having a dual citizenship has proven to have many advantages in her professional and personal life; enjoying a wide and diverse variety of people, cultures, flavors, and tastes. Amongst the many prospects NYC had to offer, Hanna found Rochelle.
Rochelle Seldin grew up in the suburban serenity of Red Bank, New Jersey. Her uncanny ability to switch from atomic belt to operatic soprano eventually brought her to Broadway, where she appeared in the chorus of They’re Playing Our Song. She followed this with national tours and several stints in summer stock. One night, a friend took her to The Duplex for a cocktail. Karen was at the piano playing show tunes, and the connection was almost immediate. Rochelle became a regular and was soon hired as a singing waitress. While Rochelle continued to work in the arts, she and Karen developed a large and enthusiastic weekly following that packed the Duplex every weekend, with throngs singing show tunes until the wee-hours.
In 1988, Karen and Rochelle joined forces with Irv Raible (former owner of The Duplex) and opened Eighty-Eights. With velvet banquettes, smoked mirrors, plush carpeting, a baby grand piano and a two-story atrium, it was the poshest piano bar/cabaret New York had ever seen. Many considered it an insane gamble, but the room was packed from its first night. NBC’s Phil Donahue Show featured Karen, Rochelle, and a small army of staff and regulars in a special episode on “Stars of the Future,” giving the room national exposure.
For the next ten years, Karen and Rochelle’s Friday and Saturday nights packed them in at Eighty-Eights. Broadway stars, and more than a few producers, came to see and be seen. In 1996, Hanna came to NYC to experience Christmas in the city and never left. And so, it all began!
Rochelle and Hanna’s first shared restaurant venture was the Snack Attack, a well-known and loved burger and sandwich joint in Provincetown, MA. “The Snack Attack was a magnificent experience” they say “we have the most wonderful memories of a time consumed by creation and friendships.” Although the Snack Attack was dear to them as a baby, Hanna and Rochelle craved for real babies, a family. Eitan was born in 2000 and Jonah in 2004. Dedicated to their family, Hanna and Rochelle sold their business and relocated to Sarasota, FL. “We chose a place that would provide our sons with the warmth of their extended family, a great education system, and the most beautiful beaches in the world.” For the past eight years, Hanna has dedicated much of her time to maximize her parenting skills. She is a trained certified and experienced Montessori teacher and has a Bachelor degree in human development. Rochelle was sought by an international architectural sign company as a sales manager in quest for her great people and service skills.
They are active members at their synagogue, Temple Emanuel as well as contributors at the Jewish Federation of Sarasota-Manatee. Rochelle and Hanna are volunteers in Equality Florida. They are also true advocates for the Susan G. Koman foundation for the Cure, raising close to $10,000 in the past years where they had participated in the 3 day-60 mile walk.
Now, as their boys are 12 and 9, Hanna and Rochelle have made a comeback into the culinary industry.
Fresh Start Café located at 630 south Orange Ave in the Burns Court district of Sarasota has many unique qualities. The restaurant decor provides an atmosphere of classic simplicity. One may feel that they are sitting in a European eatery, and another may be thrown back to the vintage days of the 1920’s. The entire staff at Fresh Start Café is as professional and warm welcoming as Rochelle and Hanna. So what’s for breakfast? Or what’s for lunch? Fresh Start Café’s menu offers a unique spread. Fresh ingredients, astonishing flavor combinations, and healthy cooking methods allow for a mouth watering experience. Home baked breakfast cakes, fluffy egg frittatas, Dagwood sandwiches, hearty soups, stews, and some Mediterranean dishes are all part of this extraordinary menu. Fresh Start Café already has a following of regulars and expected to become a landmark in the community.
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