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Community , Why NEPA?

Carla Bevan of The Bum’s Rush Restaurant & Pub – Why NEPA?

“I think the thrill of the bigger cities fades away. You want that hometown feeling. You want the places you can raise your kids. I think this area is good for that.”

Carla Bevan’s culinary career has taken her everywhere from New York’s fine dining scene to the sets of Food Network. Yet, this Pottsville native has always had roots in Schuylkill County. Bevan found her passion for cooking here in NEPA, and she continues to share her talents with the community.

As a teen, Bevan worked in the dietary department of a nursing home, where she saw firsthand how a good meal could make someone’s day. The residents loved coming to dinner—they looked forward to it all day. Their joy and excitement struck Bevan, and she decided to take her skills to a new level. She left Pottsville and headed to culinary school in Pittsburgh.

Culinary school opened up opportunities that Bevan had never even imagined. In Pittsburgh, she started working in a fine dining restaurant and knew she had found her niche. After graduating, she moved to New York City, where she worked under celebrity chef Marc Murphy. She even competed as Murphy’s sous-chef on Iron Chef (going up against Bobby Flay, nonetheless).

After years in New York, Bevan left behind the fast-paced city life and returned home to NEPA. She is currently the chef and partner at The Bum’s Rush Restaurant & Pub in Orwigsburg. In Prohibition days, the “bum’s rush” was slang for kicking someone out. But at Bevan’s restaurant, you’ll find nothing but hospitality.

“The idea here is you can come in and get a filet mignon or a beautiful crab cake whether you’re in jeans and boots from the farm or in a five-piece suit from court,” she explained. “Everybody’s welcome here. Nobody gets the bum’s rush.”

We sat down to talk about Bevan’s exciting culinary career and how her experiences all come together in her restaurant. And, of course, we had to ask the big question—why NEPA?

 

How long have you lived in NEPA?

I was born and raised in Pottsville, so I’m from the area. I turned 18, moved to Pittsburgh and then started my culinary career. Then, I turned 30 and moved back.

What brought you back to NEPA?

As a chef, I knew what this area had and didn’t have. I had a feeling that I could do something here that was different and bring my experience back to this area. Growing up here, there wasn’t the dining experience that there is now and that is booming in the area. We didn’t have that growing up. Moving back here, I knew that I could do something different that the area hadn’t seen. That was a driving force.

What did you miss most about NEPA?

The scenery. That was one of my favorite things about moving back. I lived in New York City for seven years, so when I moved home, I got to see the mountains and the wildlife. And the people here are very welcoming. Everybody has the same sense of family. It’s easy to become lifelong friends with people here.

Did anything surprise you when you returned to NEPA?

One of the other things that surprised me was the increase in the ability to shop in this area. Growing up in Schuylkill County, we always either went really far north or down to Berks County to Reading. That’s where you went for Target and those kinds of stores. Now, we have newer shopping areas. The area is definitely built up. It has a lot more to offer than it did before.

What do you love about your town?

I’m a huge fan of history, especially the history of Schuylkill County. Pottsville used to be the hub of shopping, dining and entertainment. To see that starting to resurface with the big concerts coming in this summer and the new restaurants that are lining up downtown—that’s exciting. And there’s a lot of history with the people here. When you grow up here and leave and come back, people that you knew in school are now in positions running the city or doing things of that nature. It’s kind of heartwarming. It’s like, these are my people.

What’s your favorite NEPA restaurant (besides your own)?

Very honestly, DiMaio’s Mustard Seed down here in Orwigsburg. I love that restaurant. I’ve never had a bad meal there. As a chef, I will easily find something to pick apart. [laughs] I’ve always enjoyed everything I’ve had there. They have a really good charcuterie board, and their linguine and clams is so good.

What’s your favorite thing to do in NEPA?

Jim Thorpe is a phenomenal area. That’s one of my favorite places to go. There’s also Hope Hill Lavender Farm, and in the late summer, the sunflower farm [Second Mountain Sunflowers]. It’s amazing that there’s something like that here. Then, I take my dog for walks a lot. I do that right on Sharp Mountain, which is the main mountain in Pottsville.

Yuengling is really cool too. Whenever anybody comes, that’s a must. We’ve got to do the tour and go to the gift shop. Then, there’s the Bicentennial Park, which is right on Mahantongo Street. You can see the old well that’s there.

Heisler’s Dairy Farm has also been a staple in my life. It’s still the same owners since I was a kid. That’s something we do a lot. It’s also a dog-friendly place, so I like that too.

What’s next for you?

I’m going to be 42, which in culinary terms, I feel like that means 62. It’s a very demanding job to be a line cook for so many years, then to do a bit more management every couple years. It’s still physically, mentally and emotionally demanding. I think my goal in the next five to ten years would be catering. You know what you’re doing and how many people you’re serving. I think moving more into a catering type of position would be beneficial for me, and still just do the great food that we do here, but in a different way.

Where do you see NEPA heading in the future?

As we get older, I think the thrill of the bigger cities fades away. You want that hometown feeling. You want the places you can raise your kids. I think this area is good for that. I think people see that and that the area will increase with families. The more people that come to the area, the more things will open up. That’s what I see happening now.

Why NEPA?

Maybe it’s because it’s comfortable. You’re not pigeonholed in city life. For me personally, that’s big. I loved the city in my twenties. It’s just not my pace anymore. I’d rather have a day where I can sit on the front porch and have a swing and have a drink. This area is gorgeous. There’s something for everyone here. Maybe that’s important to me because it’s the whole feel of my restaurant too.

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