“It happens quite a bit," said the chef, who regularly caters for the cast and crew of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Pulitzer Prize-winning musical, as well as shows like “Wicked,” “Kinky Boots” and “Les Misérables.
”I just smile graciously and say, 'I’m not part of the cast or crew.'"
A wider audience will have a chance to enjoy his low country-style Southern cuisine when SpoonFed NYC opens at 331 W. 51st St., between Eighth and Ninth avenues, next month.
Eating at SpoonFed will be “like going into your best friend’s grandmother’s kitchen,” Stricklin-Witherspoon explained.
“Southern food really does warm the heart,” said the South Carolina native. “I come from an amazing, loving family and network of friends and neighbors from down home, and I want to transfer that up here.”
After the chef launched his catering business in 2008, his clients on Broadway encouraged him to open a brick-and-mortar restaurant, he said.
The chef has worked as a costume department dresser on Broadway shows — currently at "Wicked" — for more than two decades, he said.
Dishes at the approximately 115-seat, two-floor venue include “Mac and A Lotta Cheese” with seven cheeses, smoked turkey and collard greens; grilled pork chops with a blackberry reduction sauce; and candied pork belly with Brussels sprouts.
Stricklin-Witherspoon and his husband Mark — who makes Spoonfed’s sauces — were eyeing a spot on Ninth Avenue for their eatery last year, but ultimately decided they’d need a bigger space “to accommodate all [their] friends on Broadway,” the chef said.
He counts Broadway actors including Vanessa Redgrave, "Hamilton" star Christopher Jackson and James Earl Jones — who personally asked him to open a restaurant — as fans of his cooking.
Other stars have also expressed enthusiasm for Stricklin-Witherspoon's dishes, he said.
“Alfred Molina… as it was told to me, said that my banana pudding tasted so good, if it were a woman, he would have sexual relations with it, and I’m paraphrasing,” he joked.
When the chef delivered food to the crew of “Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown” a few years ago, the show’s star Patti LuPone “interviewed” him over a backstage microphone and read his menu to the cast, he said.
“That was totally awesome and fabulous and unexpected,” he said. “There are lots of little moments like that backstage.”
Now, Stricklin-Witherspoon caters around eight matinee shows every Saturday, bringing individual boxed lunches for cast and crew members who order from Spoonfed. On special occasions, show managers call him up and request a catered buffet.
His new restaurant will have a “rustic, down-home feel” downstairs, and a more upscale, “Harlem Renaissance-type feel” upstairs, he said.
Musicians and singers will be welcome to drop in and perform on a stage located on the second floor.
“It’s an open mic for the Broadway community, basically,” he said. “Hopefully their fans will want to come and check it out as well.”
Stricklin-Witherspoon insisted that he wouldn't be where he is now without the support of the Broadway community.
“Spoonfed was their brainchild,” he said. “And I’ve been running behind it ever since trying to keep up.”