After my last post I figured we should talk about something non sugar related. Almost two years ago a couple of friends of mine opened Food Cache Cafe. I knew Erick because he was a regular customer at Mimi's Cookie Bar, and I knew Karl because he was my neighbor and our dogs are friends (he has a Golden Retriever named Lyle). What I didn't know was that they even knew each other. So when Erick came into Mimi's Cookie Bar one day and started firing off questions like where did I get my fridge, my oven, my this and that, I had to ask him why he wanted all this information. He told me he was working on a new project and when he filled me in, I was so excited! He told me that he and Karl were opening a new restaurant called Food Cache Cafe. It would serve natural and organic breakfast, lunch, smoothies and pressed juices. Since I knew both of them and was so excited for their project, I was happy to help with anything they needed before opening. Delaney even helped design their logo. Mammoth Lakes is home to so many active people that I am surprised we don't have more restaurants like Erick and Karl's. So even though I knew them both and part of their story, I didn't even know all of it. Like that Karl grew up with a vegetarian Mom! So, I stopped by last week, ate some food, snapped some photos and asked them some questions so you can know more about pretty much the only place I will eat in town, Food Cache Cafe. We actually recorded the interview, which was pretty hilarious at times. But, I think you'll get to know Erick and Karl from what I've written below.
I mean who doesn't want to eat at a place where breakfast is served all day?!
Mimi: How did Food Cache Cafe come about or start? How did you guys meet and what made you want to open a business together?
Karl: We worked together in one of the nicer restaurants in town and so I already knew how Erick worked and vice versa.
Erick: I've always wanted to share this. We would go through a lot of staff at that restaurant because the head chef was like you're either perfect or your out, there was no in-between. After working with that chef for a year, I didn't pay much attention to staff because they just came and went and came and went. One day I was getting service for bread and I heard, "steak's ready" and Bobby went and touched the steak and he just stopped... and he said "it's perfect" and just walked away. I had never heard him say that to anyone before, and it was Karl's steak. So I was like who is this guy?
M: And then you realized it was Karl?
E: Haha, yeah I was like huh...
M: Haha... So then you guys just started hanging out because you knew each other from work?
E: Yeah, then Karl left.
K: I got job opportunity to be head chef at another restaurant and I took it. But we were playing poker together still.
E: And I got transferred to manage another restaurant and then we started hanging out a lot after that. I had just changed my eating habits and went from about 200 lbs. to 165 lbs. in the matter of a year. And it was all because of what I was eating. I was always active, hiking, running and doing all that - but I never saw a change. So then I finally changed my eating habits. So Karl is a chef and I've always run front of the house, so we kinda just started brainstorming ideas and next thing you know we were signing a lease. And we were like holy shit, we're doing this!
K: I actually knew the second we came up with the idea that there was no stopping it. This was just something the community needed. All you have to do is find your niche and you can create a business. I don't know who said it but as soon as the idea was born, I was kinda like, ah shit we have to do this. That weekend we were doing R&D, and I was like there goes the steady paycheck and all that.
E: As soon as we had the lease signed, we had the menus set, and we were meeting 2-3 times per week for lunch before we even got our foot in the door. But, we still didn't have a name, that ended up being the last thing.
K: And we were just thinking our product is just healthy, organic, sustainable food.
M: So how did you guys come up with the name then?
E: I love being outdoors and hiking, and Karl has always backpacked. And I had just watched something where people were storing, or caching their food on long hikes on the P.C.T. Trail. And, I had brain fart so I had to ask Karl what the name of the boxes... and he immediately said oh a Food Cache, and then it just clicked.
K: That was our name, Food Cache.
M: So how long has Food Cache Cafe been in business?
E: 18 months now.
M: How many employees do you have?
E: We have seven.
M: You are both 50/50 partners in Food Cache, do you find it difficult to split the work load 50/50? How do you guys do it?
K: We stick to what we're good at. Erick is really good at front of the house, and I'm really good at back of the house.
E: The restaurant in split up in two ways. Front of the house is customer service, administrative, managing and training employees, cash handling and all that stuff. Then you also have the kitchen side. I can't even tell you about that. I don't know what temperature to cook the broth at or what to add to dishes. There are so many components to our dishes to make them stand out. Like our Avocado Bowl, there's a reason why the carrots are shaved that way, why the beets are cooked at a certain temperature, and so much more. So we split that.
M: So you guys are okay with giving up a little bit of control on either side to the one of you that has the upper hand?
K: Yes, we definitely both have the same common goal.
E: I think that's what makes it easiest is we both have the same goal in mind. But sometimes Karl wants to go up the stairs and I want to climb the ladder, but it doesn't matter because we both want to end up in the same spot. So that's what makes it easy for us to work together. With a partnership there will always be some clashes, but at the end of the day we both know we're reaching the same goal. So going through that process is just part of it.
M: Why are organic and natural ingredients important to you?
K: Sustainability of the earth and so many things. But, it's also the way I grew up as well. My Mom is vegetarian and I grew up without meat in the house, she was way ahead of her time. My Mom was also an animal rights activist, and we were in the Midwest so it was a little awkward. My parents were divorced and at my Dad's house that's where we could have meat. And I remember my Dad yelling at me after my soccer game one time because we went to Wendy's and I ordered a salad. But when you're eating so many greens, you'll just crave them. My step-Dad even makes his own vegan cheese these days.
M: We live in a secluded town, is it difficult running an organic and natural cafe? How do you guys always have fresh ingredients?
E: Two words for the first part, hell yes. It's very hard.
K: We actually weren't able to offer some of the dishes we originally wanted to because we couldn't source the ingredients.
E: I think it became a blessing in disguise and a curse, because with the space that we have we can't even store very much food so we have to order food almost every single day, literally. So it's always fresh because we run out of food and we have to order again. And sometimes if we sell out, we sell out. And with some items I think people get misconstrued about fresh and frozen. Really with fresh items when they're at their peak ripeness and you freeze that you trap all the nutrients in.
M: Yeah I think a lot of people associate frozen with bad because everything was frozen in our childhood like Microwave T.V. Dinners in the eighties, which my Mom never let us have. But that's what people are associating with frozen foods, but those were bad to begin with so it's not the frozen part, it's really the food.
K: Exactly. Frozen food does have a shelf life and you have to rotate product, but you can make frozen fruits and veggies amazing. And being where we are, sometimes that's the only way to do it.
E: But a great example of the industry changing is, one of our food vendors U.S. Foods, just a year after we opened they have started carrying more organic produce. Which we're buying from them and it's awesome.
K: And the buying power of the public I think is definitely starting to change the industry for the better.
M: Yeah, they even make organic Gatorade now! Have you seen that?
K: What?! Shut up. I was listening to something the other day about how transparency is the new currency. It's the new trend. People just want to know where products are coming from.
M: What's a couple of your most popular dishes, if someone stops in what is a must try?
E: I would say three items, The Ginger Bowl for sure. It's your choice of free range chicken or organic tofu, over organic brown rice, steeped in Tamari ginger sauce, mushrooms, red bell pepper, broccolini, garlic and ginger.
M: That's one of my faves!
E: The Amaze Bowl, if you like Acai Bowls this one has peanut butter, coconut milk with the Acai, and peanut butter it's so good I gotta say it twice. It's literally my favorite bowl, I eat one every day. It's topped with strawberries, bananas, chocolate chips and coconut flakes.
K: And the Avocado Bowl, which has sauteed kale, roasted beets, shaved carrots, the organic avocado itself, lemon, roasted bell peppers, edamame, feta cheese, pickled onions that we make in house, balsamic reduction and pumpkin seeds.
M: How often do you guys change your menu, or does it pretty much stay the same?
K: Our menu itself stays the same, but we offer different specials daily. For example today we got some watermelon, so we just juiced it, tasted it and just built off that. We created a really awesome drink that was made with watermelon juice, coconut milk, strawberries, orange and a little bit of mint.
E: We press all our juices every day in house. And we'll change things seasonally, as well as do a juice of the week and smoothie of the week.
M: I hear you have what you're calling Chamboocha, can you tell me more about this?
E: So well sell Kombucha on tap, it's GT's. And once we got our beer and wine license, one day instead of making Mimosas we were like let's put some champagne with kombucha, and we have Chamboocha. You feel good and you get your probiotics, so it's a win win.
K: It's what vegans are buzzing about...
M: What kind of hobbies or activities do you guys do, being that we live in Mammoth?
K: The usual, skiing, hiking, backpacking.
E: Geez Karl you make it sound boring.
K: I like to fish too.
M: We're all spoiled living here! Anything you guys want to add about Food Cache Cafe?
K: Yeah, we're for everybody.
E: When we created the concept, we didn't want to leave anyone out.
M: So you're saying you have vegan dishes, gluten free dishes, meat dishes, you have something for everyone?
K: Yes! And we're healthy but it's just also really delicious.
E: We're trying to show people you can still eat things you love, but if you're eating it with real, clean ingredients it doesn't make you feel like crap.
M: So are you guys planning to open more Food Cache Cafes?
E: YES! We want to be able to provide delicious, healthy and fast food to more people.
K: Erick and I both came from fine dining. If you had visited either of us two years ago at our previous jobs, you probably would have spent a lot of money. We want to bring that quality of ingredients and food down to the fast and casual customer. We're still using techniques that have been used in kitchens for hundreds of years, we're not microwaving things, we're making everything from scratch but it's still quick and you can be in and out the door.
E: Fuel for active lifestyles, no matter what you're doing.
M: Everyone deserves to eat good food.
K: Totally. Sometimes it's a mission to eat well and it shouldn't be. You should be able to walk down the street to Food Cache and be on your way.