Most restaurants start out as for-profits and end up as nonprofits by happenstance. Breaking Bread Cafe opened last week as a nonprofit with for-profit dreams, served with a side order of social residuals.
The hope is that jerk shrimp and cheese grits beget job training and community spirit, and that if enough diners drop by proceeds will eventually fund youth programming that ranges from knife skills to life skills.
North Minneapolis-based Appetite for Change, which uses food as a vehicle for improved health, economic development and social change through various outlets, canvassed 250 of its neighbors and potential customers to see what the community needed and wanted. These community cook-ins and tastings were the source of its inspiration, driven by the heart and the stomach.
The culinary brainstorming provoked an interesting, unexpected outcome: People craved soul food and Latin fusion.
“South Minneapolis and St. Paul have lots of ethnic food,” said Michelle Horovitz, one of the founders of Appetite for Change. “What we heard from people is they wanted ethnic restaurants and grocery stores. What they really wanted to see is a community cafe, mobile markets and food trucks, things a lot of communities have.”
Horovitz and co-founders Princess Titus and Latasha Powell were introduced to budding chef Lachelle Cunningham, a culinary school graduate who was already doing catering and teaching community education classes, cooking what they call “global comfort food.” The community classes were her “little test kitchen” for the kinds of food people crave.
Cunningham had long talked to friends about creating a nonprofit with educational and vocational goals, mixed with a love for cooking she developed by watching her mother’s by-the-book recipe skills and her father’s mastery of spices. Titus calls the process that created Breaking Bread “organic.”
Cunningham calls it “serendipity.”
Appetite for Change runs several food-related efforts, some of which help pay for expanding its options. Community Cooks workshops bring together groups to cook and discuss social change. There is a youth-led urban agriculture program, a community engagement effort to promote healthy food and Kindred Kitchen, a space that is rented by food trucks and used as a test kitchen and incubator for other food businesses.
Breaking Bread solicited a variety of sources for money, including corporate funders, the Pohlad Family Foundation and low-interest loans. They loosely modeled the restaurant on Homegirl Cafe in Los Angeles and Cafe Reconcile in New Orleans.
The group got some counseling and advice along the way from top area chefs, including staff at Alex Roberts’ Brasa and Restaurant Alma. Andrew Zimmern, host of the “Bizarre Foods” shows that bear his name on the Travel Channel, gave the cafe’s opening remarks. Breaking Bread recently was selected as a nonprofit deserving of a website makeover, and when the site is finished (later this month), the restaurant plans a Kickstarter fundraising campaign.
Remember when Travail Kitchen went off the rails a couple of years ago with a Kickstarter that filled their coffers with about $250,000 in new money? It has allowed them to do some amazing things in the food community, but I was a bit conflicted about the notion of people donating money to one of the most popular and successful venues in town.
Now can you imagine what Breaking Bread could do with a haul like that? If you found some change to throw at Travail, you could probably find some to push toward this little upstart in north Minneapolis that’s looking to create opportunities and training for young people.
Thankfully, Travail is giving back. They will be offering a “sexy chef experience” in which a top donor will be able to bid for a special meal. Others who will donate their skills include Zimmern and Heartland’s Lenny Russo.
Appetite for Change’s Horovitz, whose grandparents lived in north Minneapolis for decades, went to law school and for a while served as a public defender in Miami. She later found her love (and higher hourly pay!) working for a prominent Miami restaurant, then sought a way to marry food and social justice back in Minneapolis.
More breaking bread, less breaking bad.
Horovitz found that “everybody can find connectivity in food,” which evokes fond memories and an opportunity “for people from different backgrounds to rub elbows, share ideas and build trust.”
If that was the goal, Chef Cunningham had me at her first breakfast item, arroz con leche, or what my mother called “sweet rice.” It was cheap, so as a kid we probably had it once a week, for dinner.
On Tuesday, Cunningham was negotiating the challenges of a starting a new restaurant, “getting out the kinks, and finding new kinks.”
“We are building the ship as we are sailing it,” said Horovitz.
Breaking Bread Cafe, 1210 W. Broadway, is open 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. for breakfast and lunch.
Follow Jon on Twitter: @jontevlin