Nosotros Somos Una Familia The Secret To Pasqual’s Success

Lon•gev•ity [[< L longus, long+ aevum, age ]] long life adj. long-lasting, perpetual, enduring Longevity is an adjective not often used to describe a restaurant’s life. And yet on March 31, 2004, Santa Fe’s Café Pasqual’s celebrates its 25th birthday. Café Pasqual’s is a bustling jewlbox of a restaurant that for twenty-five years has been in the same location, with the same chef /owner, who has maintained the same strong culinary vision. An amazing feat to say the least. In the book "How to Own and Operate a Restaurant" by Tor Svanoe, the author states an all too frightening statistic that send chills up restaurateur’s spines; one in three restaurants fail in the first year. Beating the odds in the first year is a very small but important part of the success equation. So often even a financially viable restaurant can poop out after years of prosperity, victim of the economy, change in food trends, change in staff, loss of inspiration on the part of the creative team, bad management, alcohol and drug abuse or just through the simple fact of a hipper, new joint opening across the street. Not so with Café Pasqual’s. For Pasqual’s chef/proprietor Katherine Kagel, one element she attributes her success to has been the luck she has enjoyed in a series of collaborations, both in the kitchen and the front of house. Reaching this landmark destination of 25 years in business is the culmination of a journey that is greater than the sum of it’s parts. With many players and playmates in tow, Kagel has created, reinvented, maintained and given longevity to, one of Santa Fe’s most popular dining institutions. One day recently a regular customer who happened to be a local scientist that had dined at Pasqual’s for over 20 years, stopped Kagel in the dining room and said, " I got it, I have finally figured out what has made you successful all these years." "What is it," Kagel implored? " Our food, the use of organic ingredients, our atmosphere?" " No," replied the recognized but un-named fan, "it’s magic." To uncover the Café Pasqual’s magic, I immersed myself into the world of head enchantress, Katherine Kagel. We lunched together, cooked together, told jokes together and gossiped. I dined in her restaurant, we dined in other restaurants, I dined in her home huddled on her portal as the sun set and even sat in on a staff meeting, all giving me a different piece of the puzzle, a different ingredient to the spell. High profile and yet certainly not over-exposed, there’s a special privilege you feel to be allowed into Kagel’s inner sanctum. Each time we met, food appeared magically. Kagel conjured up dessert specials to her office for sampling like Strawberry Tortes and Tangerine Crème Brulees. I interviewed her for my radio show and was treated to a sound booth picnic of Shrimp Cocktail with Chile d’ Arbol, Roasted Ancho Chile and Zucchini Tamals and Lime & Chile Mangos. There’s a twinkle in Kagel’s eye as she unwraps the goodies or spoons a mouthful in your direction. What a wonderful culinary web she weaves. Growing up in Berkeley, California, in a family that loved to entertain, set the stage for Kagel’s career. Young Katherine assisted in preparing meals for large groups of family friends and business associates every weekend from an early age. Food was an important part of her lineage. " My grandfather on my father’s side was actually a wine grower in Romania," she recalls with pride. "My mother’s parent’s were of Alsatian and Turkish decent and owned a hugely successful market in California." A marriage, at the tender age of 23, allowed Kagel to travel with her husband as he pursued his education. They traveled to Kyoto, Japan where Kagel worked for a prominent family that she ended up assisting in opening a beautiful restaurant. The experience gave her an appreciation for Asian food and ingredients. By the time her husband’s degree seeking was finished, the marriage was too. Having visited Santa Fe briefly in 1969, on a cross-country trip as a "hippie chic in a Volvo," she had fallen in love with the then small town in ten minutes. Soon she found her way back here on the advice of a friend. When Kagel arrived in Santa Fe in 1978, "it was a dusty town, where everybody knew everybody", she recalls fondly, "People could ride their horses downtown, it was clippity-cloppity on the weekends." A friend in Denver, B.C. Caldwell, who had lived in Santa Fe, suggested she open a restaurant here, "in the place we used to eat at called The Mayflower". As she dropped into Doodlet’s on the opposite corner from the Café Pasqual’s location, exploring her new town, owner Theo Raven said, "See that restaurant across the street? Go buy it." That suggestion has lead to Theo being called the "Godmother of Pasqual’s." As a new arrival to Santa Fe, Kagel had taken her love and appreciation of Asian food and started a Chinese catering business called China Catering. The synchronicity of the two comments sent her into the then submarine sandwich shop called "Pogo’s" in search of a lease. Luck would have it the business was for sale, so with two partners and a small family investment, "Café Pasqual’s" opened for business March 31, 1979. The building, at the corner of Don Gaspar and Water Street plays a rich part in Santa Fe history. Originally a Texaco gas station, it first became a food establishment in 1923 as The Liberty Café. In 1935 it became the K.C. Waffle House, famous for their Kansas City Steaks and location across from the bus station housed in the building that would become The Coyote Café. The Waffle House was open 24 hours and welcomed weary bus travels to the remote western town, at any hour. Perhaps to remind Kagel of her roots, the original neon sign from K.C.’s sits in her back yard. The neon tubes have long been broken, but Kagel would love to stir the memory of a longtime Santa Fean and find out the exact colors of the gas that illuminated the sign and rebuild and relight it. In 1954, it was transformed it into The Mayflower Café. The Mayflower enjoyed a 16-year life there until it became The Golden Temple of Conscious Cookery in 1970. Run by the Sikh community the healthy food of the Temple gave way to Pogo’s in 1977, perhaps a sign of the changing times. With Kagel and partners Tim Burns and Margo Stipe at the helm the restaurant needed a catchy name. "I was so taken by the fact that every kitchen I went in to in Santa Fe at the time had a picture of the patron saint of cooks, San Pasqual, in it. I knew immediately, what the name should be," she recalls. The dining room walls were adorned with hand-painted Mexican tiles and one whole wall was covered with a mural by local artist, Andy Burns. With San Pasqual smiling down on the new incarnation of a restaurant, and a bloodline of hospitality flowing through the building’s veins, Kagel starting spinning her magic. Initially the café opened for breakfast and lunch with a version of the current menu but the dinner menu was Chinese, culled from Kagel’s favorite catering recipes. It was the daytime menu that caught the attention of locals and visitors. (Burns opted out of the partnership after nine months and Stipe sold her portion in 1986.) After a year, dinner was put on hold until 1987 when manager Brad Brown convinced Kagel that opening for dinner, "would be easy, no extra work, you won’t even feel it." Kagel, the ever optimist, gave in to Brown’s suggestion, and the café became a 3 meals a day-362 days a year business. Brown is one of Kagel’s longtime collaborators and is the "face" you recognize at the door. He has been with Pasqual’s continually from 1986 except for a 5-year stint when he felt the need for a change and worked in other Santa Fe businesses. "Brad has that amazing talent of recognizing faces and names of customers year in and year out. A guest will arrive and Brad will immediately offer the iced tea he remembers they ordered two years ago," Kagel boasts. Brown had moved to Santa Fe in 1986 with a great New York City based resume that grabbed Kagel’s interest immediately. She offered him a management role in the café but Brown preferred to start as a waiter to get the lay of the land. " Brad said to me that he would never begin anywhere in a position of trust, until he first earned that trust," Kagel recalls. By the end of the year, Brown was ready to join the management team. " Brad taught me the business," Kagel admits. " I’m so blessed with my managers. Brad gave me to confidence to run." David Coulson, Kagel’s other strong collaborator and general manager moved to Santa Fe in 1984 from Austin, Texas, where he had worked for the popular Kirby Lane Café. Coulson has played many roles at Pasqual’s including lunch cook, prep cook, host and waiter." My job has mutated through the years," he observes. "What keeps me inspired is that it’s always changing." Kagel adds, "One day in the middle of a very hectic lunch service, I came down from the office and everyone was running around like rabbits, carrying food and I just feel so responsible for people sweating and I said to David who was running by with plates, my God is this worth doing? And David stopped and said very emphatically, yes, cause we make people feel good!" It was Brown who urged Kagel to write a cookbook that was published in 1993 and has sold over 100,000 copies to date. "Café Pasqual’s Cookbook-Spirited Recipes from Santa Fe," is a must-have on the bookshelf for anyone that has been charmed by the café’s menu or Santa Fe to boot. The striking colored photos of classic Mexican calendar images in various poses of work and play, and the tinted photographs of some of Kagel’s professional cohorts, pays tribute to the large family that has created the long, healthy life of this 48 seat restaurant. The recipes are testimony to Kagel and her kitchen staff’s dedication to good food. When I sat down with Kagel’s support team from the kitchen, over and over they mentioned the strong sense of family that has kept them inspired, one big happy family. Rudy Gabaldon ("steady Eddie, Kagel calls him") has happily arrived at the café at 5 AM since 1984 to prepare breakfast and lunch. He feels the use of the best ingredients available and the organic meats is what makes his job easy and is most important to him. Gabriel Ruiz has worked in the kitchen since 1985. Brother, Presciliano has been cooking here since 1984 as well. Napoleon Lopez has worked the evening menu since 1987. All consider each other friends and a family that are happy to work together. Pastry chef Elizabeth Quirante admitted to being inspired by new ingredients and seasonal changes. Her offering of samples of the day’s dessert specials to Kagel demonstrated a happy relationship of mentor and student. Time and time again I observed Kagel’s encouragement to her staff, assuming the role of muse and food mother to her dedicated family. Day manager Noreen O’Brien applauded the kitchen staff’s consistency and said it helped make her job easy and fun. Night co-manager Lori Harper echoed O’Brien’s sentiments and added that she loved the way the customers waiting for tables out front were, "encouraged to interact, relax and a festive atmosphere is created." "Often people that had met while waiting for a seat end up sharing a table and becoming friends," she adds. Of course the community table in the center of the dining room is famous for encouraging local and tourist interaction. Kagel’s appreciation of her staff is obvious in the company policies and business practices. After being employed at the restaurant for five years, staff are given a month’s paid vacation. There are maternity leaves, which night co-manager Sunshine Lawley enjoyed taking advantage of when she had here child. Even in an industry where overtime and hellaceous hours are de rigor, Kagel breaks the mold. " We operate on 8 hours shifts, I don’t want people to burn out," she warns. The wait staff is joyful in executing their daily ballet, pirouetting with plates of food in the small dining room. Even the age old battle between the kitchen and the servers is dispelled under Kagel’s happy family plan. Former waitress Audrey Jenkins, fondly recalled that, " there was never a problem between the wait staff and the kitchen. Never, ever. The cooks were always happy to solve any customer request, whether it was cooking a steak more or completely changing an order. Everyone’s goal was to make the customer happy." A happy staff means happy service, another important part of the success equation. And what of the food? Good food is certainly a main ingredient in our fickle food town’s determination of success. Everyone I spoke to had a different favorite. Three regulars swear by the Corn Beef Hash, crunchy with bits of caramelized corn beef and crispy potatoes. Mole and red chile sauce feature prominently in the cookbook, on the menu and in the memories of happy diners. Kagel’s kitchen team’s heritage is reflected with ingredients, dishes and flavors from El Salvador and Mexico. The restaurant uses Presciliano’s Puebla-style mole family recipe, rich in chiles, sesame seeds, walnuts and Mexican chocolate. A fat Pupusa is stuffed with Shredded Niman Ranch Beef, Jack Cheese and topped with tomatillo salsa. There are fresh corn tortes paired with Smokey Roasted Pork Loin Chops, given an American spin with Down Home Sage Gravy. Certainly Kagel’s love of Asian ingredients is reflected in her creative use of ginger, tamarind, lime, lemongrass and garlic. A spicy Vietnamese Squid Salad burst alive with sweet, hot and tart. A bright green Thai curry boasts Japanese eggplant, Shitake mushrooms and a zippy and fresh homemade curry paste. Thai shrimp are served in a rich and luscious lemongrass coconut sauce with scallion cakes and steamed bok choy. All a toast to Kagel’s culinary journey. Kagel calls her food " Equatorial Cooking." "If you follow the equator around a globe you see a repeat of ingredients in most of the countries you come across," she explains. "The use of chilies, ginger, lime, garlic, and corn for example all are represented in these cuisines," she continues. The use of organic ingredients is very much a part of Kagel’s food mantra. "My God we are poisoning ourselves, what are we doing?" she exclaims passionately. "We have organic wine, we use organic flour, all the meats, the proteins are naturally raised. I mean otherwise you might as well go to the store and buy poisons and take them home and sprinkle them on your food." Another landmark feature of Café Pasqual’s is its 100% organic wine list. Familiar names appear without the pre-realization that they are organic. Gundlach Bundschu, Russian Hill, Frog’s Leap, Ravenswood, Honig, Simi, Ponzi, and Robert Sinskey are all popular wines that reflect Kagel’s belief in organic and pure eating. In reflecting back on Café Pasqual’s history Kagel talks fondly of days when skiers could ski right up to the restaurant door. "The dining room would be full of skis propped up every where. I called it the town of primos, everybody was a cousin. There was no showing off, you could be talking to a tycoon at a gas station, who’d be driving some ancient old truck and you didn’t know it was a tycoon. It was really about buena gente- good people, and everything was based on whether you were buena gente or you weren’t," she recalls. At the beginning Kagel did everything. "I literally did the dishes, I mopped, I did the payroll, I did the taxes, I ordered all the food, I managed the kitchen and I worked the line. I spent 450 consecutive Sundays making Hollandaise Sauce! When we started we had 13 on the payroll, now we have 50," see admits. " It was the school of hard knocks, but you know the great blues lyric: no romance without finance." Kagel’s collaborative nature has proven to be her strongest asset. " I’m very collaborative, I can’t clean out the garage alone. It’s so lovely to work with people over time, you’ve got history together and you see trends," she reflects. Having a strong team behind you does not mean however that you can sit back and rest on your laurels. Kagel has been signed by Ten Speed Press to do a follow up cookbook that she promises will expose the soft puppy underbelly of the Café Pasqual’s charm. "Café Pasqual’s Cookbook-More Spirited recipes from Santa Fe" is due at the publishers next spring for a projected fall release. It will keep Kagel busy doing what she likes to do best, telling a story with flavors and food. There is a CD collection of food songs in the works that Kagel has been compiling. The Café Pasqual’s website: www.pasquals.com offers the cookbook, tee-shirts, aprons, baseball caps, calendars, posters, coffee mugs, those great deep cappuccino bowls, coffee beans, cookies, Mexican chocolate, chile pecans and more. Kagel’s love of art took flight with the opening of a gallery above the café in 1994, called El Zocalo. On offer are works by Oaxacan artist Leovigildo Martinez who replaced the original mural in 1991 with a five-panel work called "The Moon Was At A Fiesta." Also for sale are beautiful, functional, micaceous Apache Cookpots by Felipe Ortega and icon jewelry by Leeann Herreid, among other goodies. I pressed Kagel to choose one of her recipes that best captures her personality and she thought for a moment and said, "I think the chile sauce. It’s deep, it’s rich, it’s a blend like I am, it’s delicious, you wanna come back for more, and it’s satisfying" she finishes with a chuckle. "What we’re after is emphatic food, unforgettable, it’s pow, wow and you don’t forget it." And what she would like to be remembered for? "Hmmm, I think I would like to see two words on my tombstone, She Cared." In the cookbook’s introduction, Kagel writes, Panza, llena, corazon, contento! Full stomach, contented heart. It’s a simple incantation but a powerful one that any soothsayer in Kagel’s business understands. Café Pasqual’s lure and spell is a powerful one, a bewitching that requires the participation of a large and happy family, each doing their part to weave the spell. After twenty-five years of making people happy, may the spell never be broken. Café Pasqual’s 121 Don Gaspar Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501 505-983-9340 Open 7 days and nights Breakfast 7:00 AM- 3:00 PM Monday- Saturday Lunch 11:00 AM- 3:00 PM Monday- Saturday Sunday Brunch 8:00 AM- 2:00 PM Dinner 5:30 PM – 9:30 PM Monday – Thursday till 10:00 Friday and Saturday Breakfast and lunch are first come first thrilled Dinner reservation are accepted and encouraged Congratulations to the entire Café Pasqual’s family

adminNosotros Somos Una Familia The Secret To Pasqual’s Success