Now, it's not my restaurant (though I am on the Board and happen to be the Head Pastry Chef - I'll get back to this). It's a nonprofit that I helped to start with a few other members from my church. We sell deep dish pizza and sweet pies and other yummy goodies, all while we provide job training.
If this all sounds a little crazy, let me explain how it came to be.
In 2010 when we first started going to Fountain of Life in Long Beach (still our current church), I was sitting in the service and felt like God was telling me to open a cooking school for young adults. As you all know, I love to cook, and my background is working in the nonprofit sector. I've spent time working in low-income communities where I know employment can be difficult and real job skills are not had by many. So, the idea of a cooking school that could help people didn't seem weird to me. In fact, it seemed like an awesome way to blend my hobby (cooking) with my work experience.
But, at that time, I was pregnant with Miles. I told Roy about the idea on our drive home from church that day, and I summed it up with "wouldn't that be cool to do something like that in like 10 or 20 years?" Roy agreed that it indeed would be cool...and then we went on with the business of having a baby, not really giving the idea another thought.
Fast forward to 2012. I decided to enter the KCRW Pie Contest and came in 3rd! Even though I'd been blogging and cooking for a while that was the first time I realized that I might actually be good.
That was a Saturday. The very next day at church our pastor briefly mentioned the Urban Chef Program that a chef in our church had done a few years ago with some 8th grade students. I immediately thought we should start that up again! I felt that I wanted to tell our pastor about the cooking school vision that I felt God was giving me two years prior. Again, on the drive home, Roy said to me "I think you should tell Pastor John about your cooking school vision."
So, the next week I met with John and told him all about it. I thought he'd just say, "oh nice" or something, but instead he said, "That's interesting that you say that because there is a woman in our church who wants to open a restaurant selling deep dish pizza, and she also wants to sell sweet pies, and I heard you just won a pie contest." What?!
Within that same week, John's wife Becky brought the chef (Mike), the woman with the deep dish pizza idea (Sharon), and me together for a meeting. This was my first time ever meeting Mike and Sharon. The four of us shared our stories and what we thought God might be doing in our lives. And surprisingly, we all quickly agreed on opening a pizza/pie restaurant that would provide job training to 18-28 year olds in West Long Beach. Amazing!
But, we didn't have any money, didn't have a lot of free time, and didn't really know how this would all happen. Still, we decided to meet about once a month or once every other month to keep the idea moving forward. We held a couple tasting events where we asked friends and family to give us feedback on our food. At one point we even made pies out of my house and gave them to people at church (for a $20 donation!).
|Loyal customer Eddie picking up a pie from my house|
Just when I thought the idea might never really happen, we randomly found a property in a strip mall not far from our church. This was June 2014. Around the same time an anonymous donor gave our church $100,000 and said we could use it however we wanted. Of course we chose to direct it to 5000 Pies (by that point we'd settled on the name based on John 6:1-14). So, suddenly we had money and a property.
The property was trashed. But, the previous tenant was a restaurant, and they had brought all the equipment up to health code. For example, the hood was there (a major cost in opening a restaurant). So, we didn't have to spend a lot to turn it into a restaurant, just do major cleaning, painting, re-doing the floors, etc. We did need to get a range, ovens, a refrigerator, freezer, and all the small hardware.
|Greg, our porter, working on the painting|
Then, another miracle. John got a call from a friend who is a financial advisor. This friend had a client to had opened and closed a restaurant within two years, and had a whole storage unit of equipment. He said that if we got a uhaul we could go take anything that we wanted! So, a group of us got a uhaul and loaded it up. We ended up with a range, a fryer, a bakers rack, pots, pans, utensils, catering equipment, tons of stuff!
We got everything in, worked on our menu, hired a few staff, and opened in mid September 2014.
|Miles accompanied us on our first shopping trip to Restaurant Depot|
|Jorge and Chef Mike with all our loot from the first shopping trip|
|Teaching Rosal how to pipe whipped cream|
Today we make an assortment of hand pies, cookies, and whole pies to sell by the slice everyday in addition to pizzas, sandwiches, and salads. It's been really fun for me to create the entire pastry menu, and to hear that customers are enjoying my stuff. I love reading our good Yelp reviews.
|Pie by the slice|
|Deep Dish Pizza|
We had a very busy November and December as it was "pie season."
|Some pies getting ready to be boxed for Christmas|
We've also offered cooking classes to the local community including pizza making, tamale making and apple pie making.
|Me teaching a group of girls from the Long Beach Housing Projects to make free form apple pies|
Here is a brief video if you'd like to see more of the restaurant and hear from some staff members.
As you can see, it's been amazing (and exhausting). I'm so grateful to be a part of it. But I do feel like I'm directing a lot of my creative energy toward the restaurant right now. So, I'm going to take an extended break from this blog. I hope to start it again one day, or at least begin a new one. I will leave all the recipes up so that you can still access them here, and I will still read and respond to the comments and to any emails that you send.
If you're curious about my latest creations, just check out our website and facebook page.