Wyeth wins raves during stint as bar wench

Getting into the spirit of the fundraiser for the Chadds Ford Historical Society, Victoria Browning Wyeth borrows a hat to pose with Sara Liberace behind the bar at the Brandywine Brewing Company Tavern and Grill.

Getting into the spirit of the fundraiser for the Chadds Ford Historical Society, Victoria Browning Wyeth borrows a hat to pose with Sara Liberace behind the bar at the Brandywine Brewing Company Tavern and Grill.

“That will be $5.50 – or $20 – your choice,” the neophyte bartender said, flashing a big smile as she set the draft in front of her customer.

Chadds Ford Historical Society Executive Director Nadia Barakat (from left) poses with Dr. Kirk W. Reichard, a board member, and David Dietz, the BBC Tavern and Grill's owner.

Chadds Ford Historical Society Executive Director Nadia Barakat (from left) poses with Dr. Kirk W. Reichard, a board member, and David Dietz, the BBC Tavern and Grill's owner.

Not only did most of the patrons who gathered at the Brandywine Brewing Company (BBC) Tavern and Grill in Greenville, De., on Tuesday evening happily pay the higher price – knowing it would go to a worthy cause – but they also didn’t mind waiting an hour or more for dinner, or being jostled as they fought their way through a crowd of historic significance.

The event was a Guest Bartender Fundraiser for the Chadds Ford Historical Society (CFHS), which shrewdly supplied a group of high-energy amateur mixologists that included board members, some of whom dressed in period garb, and well-known community figures to drum up donations.

The bartending headliner – and the one who offered dueling draft prices – was the ever-ebullient Victoria Browning Wyeth, well-known in the area as an insightful ambassador for her famous painting relatives: her great-grandfather, N.C. Wyeth; her grandfather, Andrew Wyeth; and her uncle, Jamie Wyeth.

A customer uses a cellphone to capture Victoria Wyeth in action behind the bar at the BBC Tavern and Grill.

A customer uses a cellphone to capture Victoria Wyeth in action behind the bar at the BBC Tavern and Grill.

The 36-year-old Wyeth, whose resume includes work as a docent, photographer, lecturer, and researcher, acknowledged before her scheduled 20-minute stint behind the bar that she was a bit apprehensive about her newest role. What if she mixed up a merlot with a cabernet or a Manhattan with a mojito?

“She looks pretty comfortable back there,” said Brian Butler, the BBC’s manager, as he watched Wyeth begin her shift, adeptly juggling drinks and conversation.

Bill Powell of West Grove said he thought Wyeth did an excellent job. A lifelong Chester County resident, Powell said he attended the event because he wanted to support the Historical Society. “I’m a big fan of preserving the area,” he said.

Victoria Wyeth proves that she's a quick learner when it comes to bartending skills.

Victoria Wyeth proves that she's a quick learner when it comes to the art of bartending.

Heidi Strauss of Chadds Ford, who was accompanied by her daughter Olivia, a senior at Temple University, and her husband Nassa, agreed. She said the family had been introduced to Wyeth when she conducted tours at the Brandywine River Museum of Art so they knew the evening would be fun.

Strauss applauded the partnership between CFHS and the BBC. “I think it’s absolutely great that the restaurant does this for nonprofits,” Strauss said.

The BBC’s owner, David Dietz, said the program has been very successful. Organizations get 10 percent of the food proceeds and the donations the guest bartenders generate. The tavern benefits by bringing in new patrons. “It’s win-win,” Dietz said.

Victoria Wyeth (right) poses with one of her fellow guest bartenders, Lisa Vonderstuck, a board member of the Chadds Ford Historical Society.

Victoria Wyeth (right) poses with one of her fellow guest bartenders, Lisa M. Vonderstuck, the owner of Brandywine View Antiques in Chadds Ford.

Later, Dietz decided to have some fun with Wyeth, who didn’t know that he was the BBC’s owner. After she delivered his drink, he told her to tell his staffers to put it on “Dave’s house account.” When she conveyed that message to Dietz’s employees, she elicited laughter that she didn’t understand until later in the evening.

Nadia Barakat, executive director of the Chadds Ford Historical Society, said she was thrilled with the turnout and appreciative of everyone’s efforts. When she personally thanked Steve Liberace, one of her costumed board members, he deflected the compliment, insisting it was a collaborative effort. “There’s no ‘i’ in team, but there’s an ‘i’ in win,” he said.

Sterling Seemans of Wilmington chats with Victoria Wyeth about her family's art dynasty.

Sterling Seemans of Wilmington chats with Victoria Wyeth about her family's art dynasty.

In the meantime, Wyeth remained behind the bar long after her shift ended, chatting with old acquaintances and making new ones. "I'm having a great time," she said.

Sterling Seemans of Wilmington was one of the few customers who hadn’t come specifically to see Wyeth. In fact, after she served him a beer, he said: “I have no idea who she is.”

Once Seemans found out why so many patrons were snapping photos, he was delighted, explaining that he comes from a family of devoted Wyeth fans. He said his mother is an artist and his father is an architect, and since they live just a few miles from the Brandywine River Museum of Art, they are frequent visitors.

By the time Seemans was ready for his next beer, he was prepared with questions as well as his order. He even pulled up an image of a painting on his cellphone to illustrate his query.

“I can’t believe she’s still back there,” Barakat whispered as she watched Wyeth converse with Seemans - nearly two hours after her 20-minute shift had started. “She is so kind and so generous. This is just wonderful.”

On Wednesday, April 15, Wyeth expressed thanks to the knowledgeable BBC bartenders who were close by on Tuesday night to offer assistance. She said she thoroughly enjoyed the experience and had already told her uncle that she found her "new hobby.”

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About Kathleen Brady Shea

Kathleen Brady Shea, a nearly lifelong area resident, has been reporting on local news for several decades, including 19 years at the Philadelphia Inquirer. She believes that journalists provide a vital watchdog service in the community, and she embraces that commitment. In addition to unearthing news, she also enjoys digging up dirt in her garden, a hobby that frequently fosters Longwood Gardens envy. Along with her husband, Pete, she lives in a historic residence near the Brandywine Battlefield, a property that is also home to a sheep, a goat, and a passel of fish.

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