Some Biola graduates impact the world for Christ in the boardroom, the classroom, the pulpit or the cockpit. Others, like the alumni on the following pages, serve God with cutlery, ovens and espresso. Whether they’re serving up barbecue on wheels, award-winning seafood, NorCal coffee or organic food in Omaha, these “foodies” are finding culinary success and representing Christ in the food industry. Read their stories, try their recipes (yes, we’ve featured recipes from each as an online extra), and try not to get too hungry!
Coffee for a Cause
At Origin Coffee & Tea, Mark South doesn’t pay his employees a dime.
Instead, the entire team of about 100 baristas — who prefer to be called “abolitionists” — serve entirely on a volunteer basis, allowing all of the profits to be used for a greater cause. Since opening in early 2011, the nonprofit coffee house in Rocklin, Calif., has raised more than $20,000 for organizations that help rescue girls from sex slavery.
The idea began to form in 2009 as South (’99, M.A. ’07), a pastor, began to look for a new location for Origin Church, which he’d planted a year earlier in his living room.
“My one conviction was that the gospel changes lives and it should change a city,” he said. “When we began to consider our home, we had that idea: What would it look like for us to transform the city by blurring the lines between the church and the city?”
Around the same time, South was learning more about the prevalence of sex trafficking in both the Sacramento area and around the world. As he heard more stories and statistics — the sex trade is a $32 billion-a-year industry in which the average girl is bought for $90 — he felt a clear conviction that God was calling his church to take action.
The result was Origin Coffee & Tea, which functions as a home for the church on Sunday morning and a popular spot for community members throughout the entire week. The “abolitionists” who volunteer — some from the church and many who are not — are trained as storytellers who educate customers on the need to take action locally and abroad. They also make a pretty good cup of coffee, South says.
“We knew that the quality would have to be great in order to sustain our cause, because people will come once for the cause and they’ll come back for the coffee.” he says. “We’ve made sure that the quality is the best it can be: the coffee, the chocolates, the presentation. Everything is artisan and handmade and high quality.”
So far, the coffee house has benefited from plenty of attention, appearing on everything from local TV news broadcasts to the nationally syndicated Nate Berkus Show. As more people have heard about the shop, South said they’ve fielded calls from dozens of people who are interested in doing something similar.
“We don’t feel like we own this idea,” he says. “For whatever reason God has smiled upon us, and we’ve been able to do something that literally we can’t find that’s been done in the United States. … Our hope would be that this goes to every major city in America.”
– Jason Newell
Photos by Celestial Photography
Food with a View
Meals at the Summit House in Fullerton, Calif., often include at least two sides: creamed corn au gratin and a five-star panoramic vista.
When Gary Parkinson (M.A. ’01) opened this fine dining restaurant in 1991, he combined a traditional English menu with spectacular SoCal scenery.
The Summit House is built in the style of an old English inn, a theme Parkinson says is timeless. Its main dining room has a 30-foot ceiling with beams while fireplaces add to the dining experience.
“We wanted to merge that very traditional English country feel with the dark woods and the rustic themes and so forth, but merge all that with being able to have a great view at the same time,” says Parkinson, who originally opened Summit House with one partner, Lloyd McDonald, who died eight years ago. He now partners with McDonald’s two sons and Mark Elliott, the general manager.
The location is one of the things Parkinson says sets Summit House apart from other restaurants. Summit House isn’t nestled in the English countryside, but Vista Park is 12 acres of wandering paths, roses and a wedding gazebo.
While Parkinson said traditional English restaurants don’t have windows because of inclimate weather, Summit House offers quite the view.
“We have spectacular views here,” Parkinson says. Along with panoramic views of the San Bernardino mountains, customers can catch a glimpse of the ocean on a clear day.
The menu is fashioned after English tradition and includes foods like rack of lamb, prime rib and roast duck. Their most popular item is classic creamed corn au gratin, a recipe that only changed once in the last 20 years when they switched from yellow corn to white.
– Amy Seed
Photos by Laurel Dailey
The Art and Science of Eating
It’s a good general rule of thumb that when a nurse is bringing you food, your taste buds probably shouldn’t get their hopes up.
Except when that nurse happens to be Gina Sterns.
A Biola nursing graduate and retired cardiology nurse, Sterns (’81) is chef-owner of Dolce Café, an up-and-coming restaurant that specializes in organic, locally sourced, tasty food. Located in suburban Omaha, Neb., the café treats food as an art form, using fresh, healthful ingredients to make food that is appealing to both the stomach and the eyes.
“Anything that’s worth doing is worth doing beautifully — that’s kind of my mantra,” says Sterns, who has the phrase “The Art of Eating” displayed prominently on one wall.
Named one of the top eight restaurants of 2011 by the Omaha World-Herald, Dolce Café offers what Sterns calls “real, honest food” — dishes like pomegranate berry salad, Gina’s Meatball Panini or grilled salmon with beurre blanc sauce and blueberry relish.
Though she left nursing more than 20 years ago, Sterns still takes health and nutritional science very seriously. The restaurant makes a point of informing customers about ingredients: organic produce, grass-fed beef from a local farm, healthful oils. In addition, Sterns has worked to launch a healthy lifestyle support group at the restaurant, and recently began offering cooking classes with an emphasis on food science.
Of course, that doesn’t mean everything at Dolce is healthy. Sterns, who was primarily doing pastry art before opening the café last August, says she is a believer in the “80/20 rule of eating”: If we eat well and nutritiously 80 percent of the time, we can afford some decadence the other 20 percent of the time (such as the cakes and cupcakes that Dolce offers for dessert).
As a Christian, Sterns says her faith shapes many aspects of her business, including how she treats and pays employees or her efforts to create a climate where customers feel genuinely valued.
“Our first write-up in the paper really grabbed on to the fact that I have some pretty spiritual ideas about community and people’s lack of community — and how that’s impacting us culturally and nationally,” Sterns says. “One of the things I’m proud of is how it really is becoming a community hangout. That’s not easy to achieve in the suburbs.”
The name Dolce, which means “sweet” in Italian, reflects her desire to celebrate life, she says.
“It’s not just referring to the pastry art,” she says, “but to the sweetness of life, together, when we feed one another heathfully and purposefully and beautifully. And people, regardless of their religious background, really get that. They really think that’s special.”
- Jason Newell
Photos by Alyssa Schukar
Fresh Fish Feast
Even the most avid fisherman would be impressed by the menu at Market Broiler restaurants.
Opened by Rodney Couch (’03) in 1989, Market Broiler restaurants specialize in mesquite-grilled fish and are known for their fresh fish markets. The original location in Riverside, Calif., was voted “Best for Seafood” 11 consecutive years in a Press-Enterprise poll.
Since its opening, Market Broiler has expanded to include four additional locations in Southern California and one in Northern California.
“You get to enjoy the surrounding people as they enjoy a meal,” Couch says. “In the Christian community we call this koinonia when we get together and we break bread with one another, and that’s probably the thing that drives me most about the business.”
Each restaurant has a fresh fish market that features one to two dozen different types of fish daily — such as shrimp from Guatemala and basa from Vietnam — and the front of the menu changes every day to reflect the fresh fish being served.
Managers make a point of checking in on customers; 65 percent of tables were visited by managers in February, Couch says.
“That’s just one of the distinguishing factors that make a difference in our restaurants,” he says.
For him, hospitality has been the key to success. He founded Preferred Hospitality, Inc., in 1989. Market Broiler restaurants were launched from this company along with Provider Contract Food Service, a business that caters to locations like California Baptist University and San Diego Christian College.
While he said some people might not think a Christian can be a good businessman, Couch says his management style of treating people well, taking responsibility and doing his very best has given him 22 years of success.
Couch said he also understands the reality that a restaurant is only as good as the last meal it served.
“What gets me up in the morning is I know that what I did yesterday isn’t going to be sufficient for today,” he says. “I need to get up and do it all over again and make sure my staff does that.”
– Amy Seed
A Moveable Feast
Alex, Andrew and Mary Honore’s barbecue restaurant is going places — literally.
Since 2010, the family has been building a following in Southern California’s mobile food scene with their food truck, Shortstop BBQ, which offers slow-cooked, sauce-slathered cuisine at sidewalks and parking lots across Orange County.
With specialties like a tri-tip and bleu cheese slaw sandwich, the truck has a fan base of more than 4,300 people on Facebook and Twitter (where followers can find out where the truck will be each day). Among the most popular stops is a Friday night gathering of food trucks at a Best Buy parking lot near Biola.
“We helped start that one almost a year ago now, so we’re there every week. They’ll have like 10 to 12 trucks,” Andrew says. “You get a lot of the same people. That’s what they do Friday nights for dinner now; they go to food trucks. Especially when the weather’s good, people will bring lawn chairs. It turns into a giant tailgate party.”
As their truck has gotten more popular, the family team — all former Biola students — recently added a more traditional brick-and-mortar location in Fullerton, meaning customers can always count on knowing exactly where to satisfy their Shortstop BBQ appetite.
Andrew — who met Mary, his wife, at Biola’s Torrey Honors Institute (where both hope to finish their degrees soon) — says that faith is an important part of the business, and is demonstrated through great customer service, quality food and excellent treatment of employees.
“I would have a difficult time professing my faith if I was taking advantage of my employees and cutting the corners,” Andrew says.
The food, meanwhile, is an opportunity to let their creativity shine.
“We actually put creamed corn on our pulled pork sandwich,” Andrew says. “From what I understand, nobody else does that. It just pairs really well — the sweet creaminess of the corn and the robust vinegary flavors of the sauce that cuts right through that. You just end up having this really great flavor combination.”
Barbecue runs deep in the family’s roots, Andrew says. Growing up, he and Alex, his brother, heard stories about their great-grandfather’s pit barbecue restaurant in Texas, and how Southern California’s barbecue restaurants couldn’t compare.
“Several years before he opened up a barbecue restaurant, he was a chuck wagon cook on ranches,” Andrew says. “So he was kind of the forerunner to food trucks. It’s kind of funny how it has all come around with my family history and what we’re doing now.”
– Jason Newell
Photos by Laurel Dailey