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Country Skillets: Mantecas new breakfast spot
Shank Sharma fills the ketchup bottles after closing Country Skillets for the day. The restaurant, which opened last month, has slowly been building a following with Manteca diners. - photo by JASON CAMPBELL


• WHO: Country Skillets
• WHERE: Located at 1471 W. Yosemite Avenue in the Manteca Marketplace shopping center.
• HOURS: The restaurant is open from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. seven days a week.
• CONTACT: For additional information, call (209) 665-7177.

Shank Sharma grew up in restaurants.

For as long as he can remember he watched his dad man a grill and knew that it was a career that he was destined for – learning the tricks of the trade early on and taking jobs as soon as he was able.

Now, with two existing Bay Area locations to his credit, Sharma is at the helm of Manteca’s Country Skillets, a breakfast and lunch establishment in the Manteca Marketplace that specializes in breakfast cuisine of all sizes and sorts.

And there isn’t anything that he won’t do to help the business succeed.

“I’m not good enough to cook by myself, but I help out the other cooks when they’re back there,” he said. “My favorite thing to whip up? An omelet. I’ve got my technique down and everything. It’s the most fun thing that you can do while you’re back there.”

For the last month he has worked tirelessly to perfect a menu that has already drawn in a solid customer base and a few regulars that have very specific tastes.

One customer, he said, wants either his French toast or his pancake served to him before the rest of his meal – a breakfast appetizer of sorts – while other customers are ready and willing to try just about anything on the menu.

They’ve been patient, too.

When he botched an omelet order last week, failing to mix the linguisa that he was cooking with the egg batter and adding water to steam it up, the new customer just asked for it to be cooked a little bit more rather than lodging a complaint or making a big deal out of the situation.

Sharma said he can chalk it up to the learning curve involved in opening a new restaurant. For the last several months he’s worked every day, and does just about everything, from sweeping and mopping the floor at the end of the day to filling the ketchup bottles.

Restaurant work, he said, is constant preparation. Food needs to be ordered and ready, and when you’re serving breakfast at dawn that means getting up early and making sure that the batters are mixed and the eggs are fresh and everything is ready to go.

He employs about 15 people to get the job done, and with so many depending on him for their livelihood, Sharma said that he feels an added responsibility – offering a reasonable agreement with his employees that he hopes will carry over to his customers.

“As long as they’re hard workers, I’ll give them the freedom that they want,” he said. “The guy that just left has worked opening until closing ever since we opened. And he’s good at what he does, so as long as he keeps doing that I have no problem scheduling him for those hours.

“There’s something extra added when people are waiting on you to sign their checks, but you also have to expect something out of them. At our other stores in Pittsburgh and Antioch we’ve got teams that are amazing, and we’ve had some turnover since we opened here. Once we have that solid team in place here, the customer service will be the absolute best.”