The Unkommon Chef finds freedom in crafting fine cuisine in York
- Chef Schan Gladden’s path to opening his own restaurant in York started almost 30 years ago.
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Chef Schan Gladden hesitantly shook former First Assistant District Attorney William Graff’s hand when they unsuspectingly ran into each other last year in York. This was the man who had helped send him to prison for a decade after years of gang life.
That day, though, Schan shared with Graff his vision for a small, family restaurant in York.
When Schan and his fiancée and business partner, Sabrina Perry, opened the doors of The Unkommon Chef earlier this year, Graff was there, ordering their specialty lamb burger topped with grilled shrimp.
Just after the attorney left, Schan’s phone lit up. Graff had left a five-star review: “service n food the best! Gladly recommend this restaurant to all!”
A chef’s journey
Opening The Unkommon Chef wasn’t Schan’s first foray into fine dining. Growing up in New York City, Schan’s family was deep in the restaurant business. His grandfather, mother, and six of his uncles were all chefs.
He began studying at the New York Culinary Arts Institute in 1995 but soon found himself caught up in what he calls “the fast-paced street life.”
After his time in prison, Schan began cleaning out the people, places, and things that were keeping him from getting where he wanted to go.
“I started chasing my career a little bit more,” he says.
He trained classically in French, Italian, and Mediterranean cuisine and began working as a line chef, sous chef, and eventually executive chef at numerous York, Harrisburg, and Lancaster restaurants.
From Annie Baileys, Stock’s On 2nd, and The Pressroom to Gibraltar, Joe Boys, and Conestoga, Schan worked the circuit. Each experience broadened his love of fine dining and international cuisine.
“Everything just kept leading to food,” he says. “Food is life, and life is worth living.”
In 2020, while working as the executive chef at The Fig & Barrel Pub in York, Schan realized he didn’t want to work for someone else for the rest of his life. He and Sabrina began looking for their own space.
An unsuspecting oasis
They stumbled upon an inconspicuous building at the corner of Fulton and East Princess streets in York.
Fixing it up took nearly a year, but in early 2022, they were finally ready to open. Bright yellow walls against black-painted brick and wall-mounted greenery create the vibe of a small, cozy Miami bistro.
“Almost everybody that walks through the door says the same thing: ‘I feel like I’ve been time-warped,’” Schan says. “We didn’t build this place just to cook food. We built this place for the community to come enjoy, relax, feel good.”