Meet Chef Karl

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Meet Chef Karl

I’ve learned along the way that every day is a new journey. Every day is a learning experience. Every day is a learning curve for me. Every new person teaches me something.
— Chef Karl

Chef Karl's Story:

Have you had the pleasure of trying one of Conversation Café’s incredible new waffles? The Butter Pecan Waffle, or perhaps the Berry Blast Waffle?

We want you to meet the culinary artist behind these beautiful creations –  our very own, Chef Karl.  

It all began in his grandmother’s kitchen – the perfect place to discover your calling in life, isn’t it? Karl would add ingredients to his grandmother’s German-inspired home cooking and stir pots full of stew. He keeps her recipes in a big recipe book, cherishing this original source of joy.

At 14 years-old, Karl began washing dishes at a local restaurant. He was observant and learned from his colleagues, so it wasn’t long before he was trained to become a cook in the kitchen. This experience was a launch pad to entering the Restaurant Management program at Lambton College. Now, for nineteen years, he has been gaining experience in a variety of culinary traditions: Greek, Italian, and of course, his German roots where it all began. 

Chef Karl brings this diversity, passion and creativity into his menu at Conversations Café, where he has been our chef for three and a half years. Having worked in Niagara’s food industry for over a decade, he has fallen in love with local produce and Niagara’s vin culture. (He was excited to talk about the olive tree and blackberries he’s expecting to see sprout up in his backyard garden this spring and summer!)  Local agriculture is something you will often find on his menu too. Remember the delightful Grilled Peach Sandwich from last summer's menu?

 Chef Karl presents the Berry Blast Waffle. 

Chef Karl presents the Berry Blast Waffle. 

Like all of our staff stories on this blog, Chef Karl also describes Conversations Café as a “family.” He speaks with humility and gratitude about the opportunities he has received from owner, Deborah Dueck, who has supported him, encouraged him and given him the freedom to bring new exciting items to the menu. In turn, he brings inspiration to his work-family by leaving inspirational quotes on the whiteboard that he wrote himself – another creative talent he possesses.

In an attempt to narrow down the many reasons he loves working at Conversations Café, Chef Karl said that:  

There are so many great aspects. It’s super rewarding coming in to work every day knowing you’re working for a good cause. You feel proud making a difference. And that’s something we take with us when we walk in here and when we leave here every day. It was an honour cooking spaghetti for the Convos fundraiser this season, knowing it’s helping so many kids in our community. I’m so honoured to work for a place that does so much for its community.
— Chef Karl

Chef Karl brings excellence into everything he does. He holds every item of food served to customers to a high standard.

He wants people to enjoy his meals from the first look to the last bite.

I know this place will be successful. Conversations has so much going for it. It was so exciting to see Convos gain its charity status this past year. Deb is by far the most generous and influencing bosses I’ve ever worked for. Her good heart makes me want to be a better person.
— Chef Karl

Fun Facts:

  • Meal he’s most proud of: “The Original” (aka. The Karl Sandwich): Grilled turkey sandwich, with spinach, tomato and berry-infused mayo.
  • Meal of choice at lunchtime: “Any kind of grilled sandwich. I’m a grilled sandwich fiend. Oh, and a matcha latte to drink.”

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Behind the Counter: Meet Mirinda

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Behind the Counter: Meet Mirinda

Walk into Conversations Café on any cold winter day, and this might be one of the warm smiles greeting you at the counter. Meet Mirinda, a barista at Conversations Café. She’s a member of our Conversations family who is on a mission every day, to make your day.

Favourite Meal: Grilled Turkey Sandwich with side soup
Favourite Dessert: Cranberry Coconut Muffin
Favourite Drink: Mirinda let us in on a little secret with this one. Her favourite drink isn’t listed on the menu at Conversations. It’s been dubbed “Blueberry Delight” and it’s a personal invention of hers. It’s made of steamed milk, white chocolate and blueberry tea.

While Mirinda will gladly help with any task that needs to be done around the café, it’s the creativity of barista work and talking to customers that she is passionate about. Although many of her coworkers would argue that cleaning is her favourite job at the café, she told us with a side smile that, “Everyone thinks I love cleaning, but mostly, I just love to see the place clean.”

This is Mirinda’s second time working at Conversations Café in the past few years, and the love she has for her team is evident. Mirinda says working at Conversations Café is like belonging to a big family. She explains that they all encourages each other, help each other, and when a mishap occurs, everyone pitches in to fix the problem.  They’ve all got each other’s backs.

If you’ve been to the café enough times, you’ve probably, at some point, witnessed our Conversations family singing, dancing, laughing or affectionately teasing each other. And of course, like any family, there are some great inside jokes:

For example, “mopping the deck” is a one-liner that rose out of a funny moment between Mirinda and a coworker. In a motivated effort to look for tasks and stay busy one morning, Mirinda jokingly suggested that her friend should go outside and clean the deck in front of the café. Before Mirinda knew it, her friend had grabbed the cleaning supplies and was outside, mopping the deck. After a good laugh, the term stuck and to this day, it brings up hilarious images of her friend trying to bring the inside caliber of cleanliness to the outdoors.

Mirinda understands the bigger impact of her daily work in the café as well. Having volunteered downstairs at Convos Youth Zone in the past, she knows how much every purchase in the café makes a difference to the average of 50 youth visiting Convos Youth Zone on a weekly basis.

Through all her experiences, Mirinda says she has learned how much “the small things” mean to people. “You don’t know what people are going through, and doing something nice for them can change their day," she says. "It’s the same thing for the youth at Convos – you don’t know what anyone is going through, so the best thing you can do is listen to everyone. Listen and be patient.”

Next, we asked Mirinda how she wants customers to feel when they walk into Conversations Café. She took this question seriously. She thought, smiled and replied, “I want them to feel like this is a nice place where they can come in and get a good, hearty meal. I want it to be a place where they can relax, and to feel like they're at a second home.”

She loves interacting with customers and making the café a place where everyone feels welcome. As it happens, this is good practice for her future goals. She shared with us that, “I’ve always dreamed of owning my own business. I’m not sure what it will be yet, but I went to school for advertising and marketing. I also have experience working at a bakery and taking food to farmer’s markets. But then, on the other hand, I also love interior decorating. I’d love to get into flipping houses one day.” She’s seen so many sides of our food production process from farm to table, and with a passion for creativity, there’s no doubt that she will continue doing great things, using her skills and passions. We’re incredibly fortunate to have her as a member of our beloved team at the café.

She left us with the best piece of wisdom she was ever given, and we’re glad to share it with our readers too. Someone once gave her some advice about building resilience during difficult times: “You’re not supposed to go over it, you’re supposed to go through it. Take it day by day.” It’s all any of can do, and Mirinda is here at Conversations Café to greet your day-by-day with a sweet smile, a delicious coffee and of course, a clean café!

 

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Convos Youth Zone becomes a Registered Charity

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Convos Youth Zone becomes a Registered Charity

October 25, 2017, Beamsville ON: This fall, Convos Youth Zone became recognized as a Registered Charitable Organization by the CRA.

What does this mean?

·      You can now receive donation receipts for your donations to Convos Youth Zone

·      Just as before, all proceeds from Conversations Café continue to go to Convos Youth Zone and the programming that happens there

·      Convos Youth Zone can continue to flourish as a safe and engaging place for youth in our community, and now we can bring more programming, food and assistance to our community’s youth

“As an organization, we could not be happier that the CRA has recognized us as a registered charity,” says Brad Cook, Director of Convos Youth Zone. “Our board of directors are excited about the possibilities this designation opens up in terms of financial support. Convos has been offering programs to local youth for the past five years, and we have seen many positive changes in the lives of the youth we serve. We eagerly anticipate the next five years as increased financial support will mean we can have an even greater impact in our community.”

Want to make a difference with your meal?

When you choose Conversations Café, your support goes further – all proceeds from the café are donated to Convos Youth Zone, where youth can find mentorship, friendship and community in a variety of activities.

 “All of us at the café are thrilled to see this development for Convos Youth Zone and the lives that are impacted there,” says Deborah Dueck, Owner of Conversations Café. “Conversations Café is a major sponsor of Convos Youth Zone, and knowing that our customers frequent the café to support the programming at Convos is what inspires us to keep going. We are so grateful to everyone who has encouraged us over the past five years to keep doing all we are doing for our youth and community.”

What is Convos Youth Zone?

Convos Youth Zone is a registered charity, located in the space below Conversations Café. Convos Youth Zone welcomes youth in middle school and high school throughout the week, to connect with friends and engage in interactive programming. On average, over 50 students visit Convos Youth Zone every week! Learn more at:  www.convos.ca.

We are a safe place for youth to start important conversations about issues relevant to their whole person (emotionally, physically, mentally, socially and spiritually) within the context of a Biblical Worldview.

Whether it's a ping pong tournament, a safe place to hang out, or a place to come for help in any way, youth can find inspiration and connection at Convos Youth Zone.

 

Donate to Convos Youth Zone at:

chimp.net/charities/convos

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Leave Your Mark

When you were growing up, were you taught to always put a coaster underneath your cup before placing it on a wooden surface? Maybe you have even had one or two scoldings, when you absent-mindedly placed your ice-cold pop, or steaming hot chocolate, down on a coffee table without a napkin underneath?

At Conversations Café, we see these rings as marks of achievement! They are the result of good conversations, family celebrations, old friends reuniting, and new friends being made.

They are the artwork of our community, who have gathered, connected, and supported the community’s youth with every meal they’ve purchased…and we wear them proudly!

Like the marks on our walls at home that measure the heights of our growing children, the mug marks on our tables tell a story too. When we look at them, we think of all the people we have been privileged to meet and serve­–the relationships that have been strengthened over coffee and conversation, the dreams that have been shared, and the regular coffee dates that are the bright part of your week. We are grateful that you choose to start your conversations at Conversations Café, and we’d really like to say: thank you for leaving your mark!

We think they're beautiful!

 

       

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5 Things to Enjoy at Conversations Café this Weekend

Let’s Celebrate Spring Together!

April 22nd-23rd Conversations Café

Spring Kick Off

Do you love the sound of birds chirping, the smell of barbecues, and the sight of sunny blue skies as much as we do? Gather your friends and family and head over to Conversations Café THIS WEEKEND! We want to celebrate the start of a new season with you:

1) Ice Cream Parlour OPEN for the season:

Do you scream for ice cream? We can’t think of a better way to welcome in spring than a double- scoop of our favourite ice cream flavour in a waffle cone!

 2)    Tours of our recent renovations:

Have you noticed some changes lately around the restaurant? We have been undergoing renovations! Come check out our new seating options as well as our renovated board room.

3)    Hourly giveaways and a raffle prize:

How does free ice cream sound? Or a chance to win an Official NHL Jersey?

·      Every hour at a secret time we will be giving away ONE FREE ICE CREAM CONE to a lucky visitor! One visitor every hour will also be selected at random for a free raffle ticket…

·      This is a raffle you won’t want to miss! Just in time for NHL playoff buzz, you can enter for your chance to win an Official NHL Jersey! Between April 22nd-April 30th, you can purchase a raffle ticket at Conversations Café ($2.00 or 3/$5.00) in support of Convos Youth Zone. With your purchase of raffle tickets, you will be entered to win the raffle prize–one winner will be chosen and they will get to choose one jersey–either an Official Auston Matthews or Mitch Marner Jersey! 

4)    Live Music with Riley Michaels:

On Saturday April 22nd, at 2:00pm enjoy live music with Riley Michaels–local Classic Rock and Blues singer-songwriter!

5)    New Menu Items:

It’s a brand new season, and we’ve got brand new menu items to nourish you with some summer vibes!

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Behind the Counter: Meet Connie!

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Behind the Counter: Meet Connie!

Want to learn more about the woman who bakes over 72 fresh muffins every day for the guests of Conversations Café? The Conversations kitchen is a family and we want you to get to know our "Kitchen Grandmother" who puts love and skill into every baked good at our counter...and she does it just for you!

When Conversations Café opened almost five years ago, 62-year old Connie applied to be a baker in the kitchen. She was backed with years of kitchen experience, but was unsure whether she would land the job because of her age. She did indeed get the job, and this humble worker quickly became a treasured member of the Conversations kitchen team. Over her time here, Connie has proved to herself and others that aging should never hold you back from doing what you love…and being exceptionally great at it!

 She’s a kitchen celebrity at Conversations–her baking skills are praised by staff and customers, and behind all these amazing creations, there is a story of a woman who is living life to the fullest; she is using her skills to make sure all of us get to experience the joy of fresh baked goods any day of the week!

Connie has been baking since early on­– she grew up in an Italian family and her baking was mostly Italian desserts and baked goods around the special holidays. These days, she has embraced learning new recipes at Conversations Café, and now bakes many trays of cookies and muffins fresh every day! 

No stranger to the kitchen, Connie gave us the background on her work experience, which began at Kresgy’s at Yorkdale, and then moved to the Yorkdale University Kitchen. Following that, she spent 25 years cooking in the Kitchen at McDonnell Douglas Aerospace company. There’s no doubt she has a passion for bringing people together with her cooking– she tells us that, “I’d rather cook for ten people than two at home.”

This is good, because her creations have a tendency of attracting a crowd! The rest of our team always loves when she brings in some of her Italian home cooking with them to take home–especially her lasagna!

Fun Fact: Did you know that Connie was also the winner of the Miss Centennial North York in 1967?

A beautiful person inside and out, Connie is a beloved member of the Café team. Deb Dueck, owner of Conversations Café adds with a smile that, “Connie is everyone’s Grandma around here.” As the kitchen matriarch, Connie fulfills her role with great humility and dedication. She was quick to answer that her favourite part of working at Conversations Café “is the people.” She explains that, “I get to meet different people. I love seeing the people who come in regularly…like just this morning I saw a couple who comes in every morning, and orders toast and coffee. So I loved chatting with them. And the staff is so good to work with too!”

Life Lessons with Connie:

In all of her experiences, Connie wants to encourage young people who love to cook and bake with the advice to “follow the recipe…but put a pinch of this in, and a pinch of that in.” Just as she encourages youth to be authentic in whatever their talents are, she also passes on to our readers her most important life lesson: “Just be yourself. Don’t try to be someone else that you’re not.” And with that fantastic grin, she adds, “…And then maybe when you’re 62, you’ll get hired!”

So next time you see those beautiful cookies behind the glass counter, or maybe take a bite into Connie's personal favourite, the Blueberry muffin, know that it has been made with love, skill and grin from Connie!

 

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