Community Cuisine sometimes seems like a relic from times gone – a business where owners and customers have known each other personally for years. We’ve been through moves, illnesses, marriages and deaths of loved ones with some of you – not to speak of a pandemic that we are currently experiencing together.
We hope you would let us know if you were in any kind of need we could help with as well. We also know the specific favorite foods of some of you and we hope you tell us what they are. It actually adds a dimension of meaning when we put an item on the menu, make or package it, and remember “oh, so and so said this is their favorite” (Terri really likes the Cashew Cranberry Truffles, Jaclyn the Tajine, Michele the Almond Raspberry Cookies, Barbara and especially Dave, her husband, the Loaf dish from last week!). So, in short, we care about you and we feel your care for us. That’s really quite wonderful.
On February 1st it will be ten years that we moved our business into our first commercial location – who remembers the Fair Trade Café – Charles and Bev, Nancy – who else? Two of our staff from then are still with us, too. Overall these years, we have cooked about 500 different menu items. Probably half of these are not considered for the menu anymore – they turned into a new improved dish or became incorporated into our whole meal dishes; they turned out to be hard to package, or maybe had a too rare or too expensive ingredient. Here is an example. We once made you a very delicious and authentic Thai Coconut Soup. We would have had to sell this soup for twice the price of our regular soups to stay within reasonable food cost guidelines.
This soup was chef Sapna’s recipe who left us due to the pandemic. We miss her and all the Indian cooking she did. Chef Ingrid sometimes tries her hand on Indian Cuisine. It’s hard to live up to Sapna though. Ingrid’s Dhal Makhani was pretty good. We’ve been wanting to cook it again but cannot get the Urad Dhal in organic quality at an affordable price right now – another illustration of this issue of menu planning.
In the dessert category, we have another reason for sticking to the ones we know well. As the bakers among you know, baking is an exact art and it usually takes lots of experience perfecting a baked good. Therefore, if we make an item only every three months, we never get to this level of routine that easily guarantees the perfect outcome that a baker gets who makes the same thing day in and day out. (Even though, we must say chef Mario, our main baker is pretty amazing!).
We love offering you the variety that we have. We know that your body likes it (variety in what you eat is the best way to ensure you cover all your nutritional needs) and your tastebuds like it. Last year we had 25 new items, less than the year before. This was largely due to having to plan more conservatively during the pandemic since new dishes take considerably more time and staffing was and still is more challenging. We have a smaller team and some of the team need to be kept apart at times, for example when they attended family events. Nevertheless, we are hoping to keep up with a similar rate of introduction of new items in 2021.
If you have read so far – thank you. And please, would you share with us if there is a specific dish you’d like to see (chef Ingrid very much wants to make a vegan version of Hungarian dish – Szegedin Gyulas, three trials so far did not turn out right), or a type of cuisine (we once had a chef who loved Vietnamese food and made one dish one time, it part of these that never made it in the menu again. It was very good, but he started his own business). Or a category – new breakfast items? Maybe an ingredient you‘d like to see more of? For example, we have not ventured much into the meat replacement cuisine, using jack fruit, seitan, soy curls, etc – would that be of interest to you? We would love to hear from you in particular in response to this question of new items as we can meet your needs better of we know what they are!
We have already mentioned our plan to convert Community Cuisine into a worker-owned co-op!
Our goal to become a workers’ owned co-op will take about two years. We are pretty excited about this venture as it reflects our desire to strive for the best practices in every area of our business. So far the development of our menu and ways to conduct business in environmentally responsible ways have been in the foreground.
As our team has grown together, especially during the pandemic when we needed to rely on each other’s support more than before, we felt we reached the point where this rather big step to fundamentally restructure the business became feasible. In the next few weeks, we will share details and let you know how you can support us if you’d like to do so.
It is a rather ambitious project that requires many aspects of the business to be reorganized. However, we envision the outcome for our staff members to become co-owners to be beneficial not only for them but also for you, our customers, and the wider community. Stay tuned for details!