Saturday, August 22, 2009

If you're ever in Puyallup, WA, have lunch at organic Comfort Food Cafe

About a year-and-a-half ago, in the Washington State town of Puyallup, Patty Rody opened the doors to her organic Comfort Food Café. Hoping to expose customers to the world of organic foods was a goal, for certain; while building a foundation for her true mission, to help troubled youth. While on a trip to Vietnam and Cambodia, seeing people helping people deeply inspired her to do something like that back home.

Though the mission isn’t up and running just yet, they have started a program with girls from her church who come to the café once a month to learn cooking, and learn crafts from volunteers with creative arts experience. “I’m a spirit-led gal, and I lean on that,” Patty says.

For several months after the café first opened, Patty and her crew served breakfast. “It was a little hard to compete with the downtown cafes,” she says. “We only had two conventional ovens. We’re more geared to casseroles, muffins, smoothies. We could not do eggs made to order.”

Their following was good, but not enough for them to stay profitable.

For a time, they tried serving dinners, but that, too, presented problems. Cook staff arrives at 7 a.m., to make all their foods for the day from scratch. “Sometimes, the casseroles and the soups would sell out and there would be nothing left to order,” Patty recalls.

Then they found their niche. “The downtown is a busy place at lunchtime, so that is what I’ve chosen,” Patty says. Her café, the only organic restaurant within half an hour in any direction, is open Mondays through Saturdays, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Starting out, 95% of the café’s foods were organic, but those costs were too high to maintain.

Patty, a price shopper, says, “When you’re in business, unfortunately, price is an issue.” Today, 80-85% of their menu is derived from organic sources, including local farmers. Costco gets a fair amount of her business, as well. “Everything I can get that is reasonable and most beneficial,” she says. Dairy, meats, eggs, coffee, juices; they’re all organic. Fruits and vegetables are not completely local, though she’d love to buy all local foods. Even at the lower percentages, they’re still higher than other organic restaurants, who use only 70-75% organic ingredients.

Patty’s menu is designed to appeal to a wide range of diets, from meat-eating organic food lovers (meatloaf, a favorite, is served daily), to vegans and vegetarians, and those who are gluten-intolerant.

Main dishes aside, Patty’s customers enjoy her desserts which satisfy just about any craving---cookies, cake, candy, pie and cobblers. “We know what people like best,” she says. “Our no-bake cookies are a hot seller. Otherwise, we mix it up and try new things.”

Her staff of ten---cooks, servers, manager, and an assistant manager---are all cross-trained. Everyone, except Patty who takes no salary, is paid the same wages and they split the tips. “We are in it for the vision as well as for the job,” Patty says. “I’m blessed and fortunate to be able to do it. I was trying to have a way to use my life to help others and this is how it happened.”

Head to the Good Earth Food Co-op in St. Cloud, Minnesota, for organic soups, sandwiches, salads, wraps, desserts, and beverages from their self-serve deli. The store is located in Centennial Plaza on 8th Street.

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