MASHPEE ― Over a decade, Mark Lawrence hired Oneil Reid not one, not two, but three times for different restaurant jobs on Cape Cod.
Each time, the breakfast and banquet cook brought along his recipe for homemade corned beef hash.
Now, Lawrence goes to Reid’s place, called Oneil’s Kitchen, to get his breakfast of hash and poached eggs.
“The dream was always to have his own business,” said Lawrence, now owner of Polar Cave Ice Cream Parlour in Mashpee.
“He always took it very seriously, always worked like it was his own place.”
Now it is his own place.
At 440 Nathan Ellis Highway (Route 151,) a small sign underneath a bigger sign advertising blinds, marks the home of Oneil’s Kitchen where breakfast and lunch are served daily from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. (1 p.m. on Sundays.)
“We have a lot of breakfast regulars,” Reid said. “I’m trying to promote lunch more.”
Oneil’s Kitchen is an unassuming place and you might drive by without noticing it but that would be a mistake.
The cheery little restaurant is not only a good neighborhood place for a bite, but is an American dream come true for Reid, who learned to cook in Jamaica and first came to the United States for summer work 20 years ago.
“He was the one who allowed us to get out of the building because we knew he was there and in charge,” said Anne Ferro who, with her husband, Mark, owned the former Mills Restaurant in Marstons Mills (now Fig Tree Cafe) where Reid worked for nearly a decade.
“He was never late, would never not show up,” she said.
Mark Ferro added, “Breakfast cooks were notorious for getting the Michelob flu and you would dread the ringing phone at three in the morning, but Oneil was always there.”
Reid said, “When I’m working, I represent myself, my family and my country.”
In addition to former employers who sing his praises, customers Reid has cooked for over the years have found their way to Oneil’s Kitchen.
When Reid took over the former Laura’s Home Cooking, he kept all of the staff, including longtime baker Tracy Sepeck, who makes pastries and huge loaves of sweet bread, including apple spice and maple nut, for $12 each.
Reid originally thought his first place would be a bakery, but years of breakfast-cook experience put him in the right spot to take over when the Mashpee space became available.
In addition to the 50 pounds of corned beef he makes from scratch once or twice a week, the pans of apple crisp he cooks to serve as dessert or on French toast, and the barrage of home fries, eggs and pancakes, Reid makes sure to take a quick spin around the restaurant to greet guests with his beaming smile.
“He could do 300 meals on his own,” Lawrence said. “He had someone help him plate, but he would do all the cooking.”
“He is (in) perpetual motion in the kitchen,” Anne Ferro said, adding that he makes it look easy.
When Reid worked at The Mills, Mark Ferro said, “He would always say, ‘No stress in the building.’”
Reid said of his in-control demeanor, “The Lord has been good to me and the Lord is not going to leave me. I have a strong faith.”
Gwenn Friss is the editor of CapeWeek and covers entertainment, restaurants and the arts. Contact her at email@example.com. Follow her or X, formerly Twitter: @dailyrecipeCCT
Thanks to our subscribers, who help make this coverage possible. If you are not a subscriber, please consider supporting quality local journalism with a Cape Cod Times subscription. Here are our subscription plans.
This article originally appeared on Cape Cod Times: Jamaican chef opens Mashpee eatery after 20 years' cooking for others