Former St. Matthews chef starts over after fire

New beginning: After a fire, St. Matthews chef starts over

RADCLIFF, KY (WAVE) - A devastating fire in 2016 took down two beloved St. Matthews restaurants.

The fire started in a business on Fairfax Avenue and burned through neighboring restaurants SuperChefs and Chef Maria’s Greek Deli in January of 2016.

While SuperChefs returned to the Louisville dining scene some time ago, the popular Chef Maria wasn’t sure what would be her next move.

Friday, she answered that question with a ribbon cutting.

Three years after the fire, she’s back in business and she’s also back home in Hardin County. Starting over is something Maria Bell has done a few times.

Bell’s successful career began at Fort Knox, feeding soldiers and those who worked nearby.

Her new restaurant is just down the street in Radcliff, where loyal customers were waiting to welcome her back.

“That’s joy, when you say ‘Opa!’ you know?” Bell said on her ribbon cutting day.

Opa: The Greek expression used for celebration.

During the winter of 2016, Bell wasn’t sure she would ever get back there.

“It was drama, a dramatic situation,” she said.

A night full of drama Bell won’t soon forget, as friends began waking her up with texts of fire photos at 4 a.m.

“I saw SuperChefs and I said, why are they sending me a picture of SuperChefs burning?” she remembered.

Chef Maria's Greek Deli and SuperChefs were destroyed in the 2016 fire.
Chef Maria's Greek Deli and SuperChefs were destroyed in the 2016 fire. (Source: WAVE 3 News Archive)

WAVE 3 News was there when Bell found out that her restaurant had also been destroyed.

“I haven’t been up there yet, I don’t want to see it,” she said in 2016,

The single mom, who had been in Hardin County originally, moved her business to Louisville after September 11. Heightened security at Fort Knox kept her customers on post.

And then, the St. Matthews fire happened.

Chef Maria was emotional at her grand opening.
Chef Maria was emotional at her grand opening. (Source: WAVE 3 News)

From ashes, to coming home.

After teaching cooking classes, Maria and her brother spotted a former pawn shop on South Wilson Road in Radcliff that needed some Opa.

With tears, she told a crowd at the ribbon cutting, “A small town called Radcliff, Kentucky opened its arms when they didn’t even know what I was cooking.”

“(Maria) is a bright spot in our community and we’re glad to have her,” Pam DeRoche, the President of the Radcliff Small Business Alliance, said.

Chef Maria's Cafe is open Tuesday through Saturday.
Chef Maria's Cafe is open Tuesday through Saturday. (Source: WAVE 3 News)

Lamb kabobs and more are now once again served to the delight of devoted customers like Anne and John Flanagan.

“We absolutely loved it,” John Flanagan said. “As (Maria) said, we don’t know what half the stuff is, but you know it always tastes good.”

And with the cutting of the ribbon, the crowd shouted, “Opa!”

The chef would love to see all her Louisville customers head down to the new Chef Maria’s Cafe in Radcliff. She’s open Tuesday through Saturday with cooking classes Sunday and Monday.

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