The First Yumm! Bowl

by Kelli on February 15, 2010

from Mary Ann Beauchampwildrosesign

People often want to know – how did Cafe Yumm! start?  Did I plan a menu for a new café concept, or did I have a favorite recipe that friends and family loved and encouraged me to offer publicly?  I think we’ve all tasted something a friend or family member made and were sure it would be an instant hit with everyone.

The fact is, the latter – but I didn’t believe this odd, sort of “health foodie” sauce would go over well with the majority of those who sampled it.  I combined so many ingredients I liked, in such a complicated way, that I felt the sauce would remain just that – a family favorite destined to go no further than my house and the little jars I doled out during the holiday season.

I had no dream or expectation that this sauce would lead into a new life, café, retail production of the “family sauce”, and then subsequent franchising of that little café.  I never imagined that the taste of this sauce would be not only be “well-received” but actually become “addictive” (in the words of my customers). Obviously, destiny engineers its own plans and we, in enthusiastic obeisance, become the operators.

Indeed, there was a plan, but it was not our plan.  It’s what Mark calls an “organic” process – no specific intention, just life finding its way and creating one thing after another.  It actually started from a different concept and developed synchronistically, with input from our supportive and enthusiastic customers, and solving problems as our business developed.

Café Yumm! has been and still is a wonderful journey we have undertaken with our customers, friends, and family.  I would like to share our story with you here in these pages.  It’s several chapters in the making and the first chapter was Wild Rose Café & Deli.

I was born in Tokyo, Japan in 1950 to my American Army sergeant father and my Japanese mother.  I spent several of my early childhood years living in a neighborhood in Verona, Italy.  Mediterranean and Asian cuisine were a natural fusion for me.  In addition to the unusual combination of Southern American and Japanese food served in our house every day, I learned to cook, blend and eat flavors from all over the world, due in part to the different ethnic groups we were always surrounded by within the military family.  Whether it was Greek, East Indian, Hispanic, or Filipino, fusing flavors and exploring food was a big part of my life, from a very early age.

In my twenties, with Mark’s influence, I became intrigued with the rising vegetarian movement and began to study vegetarian cuisine, embracing the challenge of creating flavorful recipes that would appeal to the mainstream American palate.  For years I contemplated starting my own restaurant, but I didn’t really know where to begin. So, instead, I worked in many restaurants and cooked for family and friends, learning new techniques and exploring new cuisine.

In April 1991, the owner of Friendly Street Market offered me the opportunity to run my own small café in this neighborhood grocery store located in south Eugene.  He had heard good things about my cooking from his customers and approached me regarding operating this charming, completely furnished and equipped café.

I had only to quit my job as one of the cooks at Oasis Fine Foods (now Capella Market), a local grocery store and deli, and make the commitment.  I was very flattered but nervous at the prospect of running my own small restaurant.  Mark, as usual, was my cheerleader.  I remember him saying, “If you don’t do this, you will probably regret it.” And he would have been right.

My fear turned into enthusiasm, I signed a one-year lease and we started planning.  After much discussion, we finally decided on Wild Rose Café & Deli as the name.  It seemed natural, simple and beautiful to me; with a touch of the exotic, which was exactly what I wanted to serve to my customers.

The menu offered typical neighborhood café items such as soups, salads, sandwiches, tacos, casseroles, pasta salads, breakfast pastries, tea and coffee drinks, and a full breakfast menu on the weekends.  It was a very popular neighborhood location, open daily (as in, no days off for me).

I did all the cooking. Mark’s 67 year old mother and our 12 year old daughter, Jessica, served customers and washed dishes. Mark kept the books, processed the payroll, designed the menus, and handled many other business matters for the café while still being employed in his own career. This was truly a family affair.

It was in this setting that the first Yumm! Bowl was created.

When I was growing up, my mother would always have rice cooking at home and would make me bowls of rice with various toppings.  I have always liked eating my meals from a bowl – breakfast, lunch or dinner.  The layers stay intact, and can be mixed, if desired, with little or no spilling.  For me, a bowl is also a symbol of nourishment, comfort and giving.

Every day at that small café on Friendly Street, I would cook the soups and make the pasta salads.  Foregoing recipes, I had to taste my creations to know when they were exactly right.  When I was ready for lunch, after tasting soups, salads, dressings, baked goods and other items all morning, I was more than ready for something fresh and simple, nourishing and delicious… and something different than the food I had been tasting all morning.

So, I’d grab a bowl, put in some rice, layer on some of my homemade sauce and add some toppings, such as, cooked beans, diced tomatoes, sunflower seeds, cottage cheese, salsa, sprouts, or even some soup.  Voila! Texture and color – edible art!  I did this nearly every day and it was never the same bowl twice.

My customers would see this beautiful bowl of food and ask, “What are you having?”   (They wanted what the cook was making for herself).  “Just some things I threw together,” I’d say.  “Would you make me one of those?” they would ask.  This caused me a bit of angst because what I was making for myself was not on the menu and I had no idea what to charge them.  They would tell me to charge them “whatever, it’ll be fine.”

So, being always passionate about making something my friends and customers enjoy, I would make them a bowl, like the one I had made for myself, and serve it to them.  Almost without exception, they’d take a bite, roll their eyes heavenward, do a little knee dip, and exclaim, “Yummmm! What is this?!!”

This happened more and more often with more and more customers.  Then, regulars began bringing in friends and asking me to make them both a bowl.  The challenge, of course, was that I always made something different.  Two ingredients were always consistent, however; rice and the sauce I made at home.  (I didn’t serve the sauce at my café because it was kind of unusual and I thought people probably wouldn’t care for it.)  So, I’d put something together and watch the friend go through the take a bite, eye roll, knee dip process.

Looking back this seems rather endearing, but at the time it was kind of weird and I wasn’t sure what to do about it.  The most popular item requested wasn’t even on the menu, had no set list of ingredients, and included a sauce that I made at home just for my family.  Did other restaurant owners go through this?  I had no idea.  What was obvious was that I needed to add this to our menu… whatever it was.

Near the end of our two years there, we simplified the bowl down to brown rice, “the sauce” (that’s what our customers called it in 1992), black beans, and salsa – that was all.  I could not believe people wanted the simplest thing I made, over and over, often on a daily basis.

We operated the café at Friendly Street Market for two years before relocating to the Fifth Street Public Market in downtown Eugene in May of 1993 as Wild Rose Food Company.  That part of the story is the next chapter.

Do you have memories of Wild Rose Café & Deli at Friendly Street Market?  If you do, we’d love to hear them.

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

CafeYumm 02.16.10 at 10:00 pm

The first Yumm! Bowl. A little history on the blog from Mary Ann Beauchamp:

This comment was originally posted on Twitter

kmatthews 02.16.10 at 10:08 pm

Fun post! #client RT @CafeYumm: The first Yumm! Bowl. A little history on the blog from Mary Ann Beauchamp:

This comment was originally posted on Twitter

t.a. barnhart 02.16.10 at 10:22 pm

hi Mary Ann!
i made more than a few bowls of yumm for people, not to mention Garden and salmon burgers, tofu scrambles & Sunday morning pancakes. it was a great gig, and i was lucky to get on board with you and the rest of those people.
by the way, “just quitting” your job at Oasis was a bit more than that, as those of us who were there that day remember. it was one of the greatest things i have ever witnessed. a few years later, i got to do something similar with a boss who had been on vacation when i gave my 2 weeks notice — and his pompous threat to fire me got smacked down with “too late!”
people who love your food have to know you were/are that kind of boss. you were good to all of us, generous and a lot of fun. maybe my best boss ever. you deserve your success.
god, i could really use a bowl of yumm right now!

nagnagnag 02.16.10 at 10:49 pm

Sure-fire franchise. Seriously. ADDICTIVE! RT @CafeYumm: First Yumm! Bowl. A little history from Mary Ann Beauchamp

This comment was originally posted on Twitter

CafeYumm 02.17.10 at 4:28 pm

A fun story by Mary Ann Beauchamp on our blog & remembering the first Yumm! bowls. (we’d love to hear your memories!)

This comment was originally posted on Twitter

Brita 02.21.10 at 1:30 pm

I moved to Seattle after living in Eugene my whole life. Yumm is a big part of what I miss about Eugene and I really hope the possibility of a Seattle location becomes reality. I miss my family, but a Cafe Yumm in the Seattle area would make me feel right at home! My Eugene pride knows no bounds and I’m so glad that people love your food as much as I do. Thanks for sharing the history!

Sarah 03.01.10 at 5:44 pm

Brita – I, too, grew up in Eugene my whole life and now live in Seattle. Luckily, I stock up on liters of Yumm Sauce whenever I visit family every few months in Eugene so that I can make my own Yumm Bowls here in Seattle. You can go to any Seattle Whole Foods and they sell Yumm Sauce containers! You should definitely check it out and try making your own homemade Yumm Bowls!

Suki Allen 06.06.10 at 11:11 am

Mary Ann…
It’s been so long, but I still eat yumm constantly due to your sauce being in my Portland Co-op’s cooler case. I am so happy for your amazing Yumm success…and thank you for being such a great employer so MANY years ago…In the Wild Rose Days.

Suki (Suzanne) Allen

Brooke 10.01.10 at 2:10 pm

I almost jumped out of the car the other day when passing the Cafe Yumm in Beaverton and realizing that there was Yumm close to me again!! I worked at Wild Rose in Eugene at 5th Street Market and spent many months making Yumm, tempeh skewers, tempeh reubens, amazing salads, and cleaning the grill with pickle juice (still love that trick!). I haven’t been back to Eugene in years, but STILL crave a Yumm Deluxe. And now I can have one! I’m so thrilled!! Glad to hear that you have seen such success and that Yumm sauce is spreading across the NW.
By the way, Mary Ann – I still laugh whenever I see a Golden Retriever and remember you talking about how your dream of heaven was walking through a field of wagging Golden Retriever tails!

Jennifer Beauchamp 08.03.12 at 11:25 am

Auntie- I remember Wild Rose, you , Cousin Jessica and Grandma Martha working together. I will always remember the wonderful dishes you brought to family gatherings befor “Yumm” was poured into a bottle. I have been saying YUMMM to your food forever. I do feel that my own passion for the fusion of different foods and tastes came directly from the Hippy Beauchamp influence. I know everyone has a differnt opinion about that but I have loving and wonderful memories about the food we ate as a kid! this is a beautiful story! thanks for making sure its getting shared. Love you guys

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