La Baleine Café
Tell us about your business.I grew up in the kitchen of my family’s wilderness lodge in Alaska. La Baleine Café, our café on the Homer Spit in Southcentral Alaska, showcases that self-sufficient frontier spirit that is an important family value. We are dedicated to consciously sourced materials, artisan, homemade and homegrown products. Working in partnership with my mother, Within the Wild Adventure Company co-owner and chef Kirsten Dixon, I designed a menu of traditional and modern rustic-style Alaska dishes and pastries for the café. We serve breakfast and lunch, including dishes such as the Baleine breakfast skillet, featuring our homemade corned beef, farmers market-fresh veggies and cage-free eggs. We also craft, package and sell a variety of take-out products in the café including our smoked salmon spread, jams, jellies, granola, rhubarb chutney, spice mixes, upscale camping meals and other homemade goods.
What makes your business stand out?I attended both the Le Cordon Bleu and the Culinary Institute of America, and I have expertise in both savory and pastry cuisine. I spent time in California working with well-known chefs, such as Thomas Keller and Traci Des Jardins. I cook with a combination of all the lessons I learned through traveling and the kitchen skills I grew up with. Our recipes and flavor profiles of each dish we prepare is unique. For example, our smoked salmon spread combines hot-smoked salmon, light whipped sour cream, ground cardamom, lemon and pepper (rather than the typical cream cheese and dill). Our rhubarb chutney is made with fresh rhubarb, Alaska honey, red onions, spices, cider vinegar and other fruits. My café is tied strongly to the community — we’re constantly working with local fish, meat and produce purveyors, visiting the farmers markets, buying locally made honey and locally roasted coffee. As self-sufficient as we can be in Alaska, we also know that food is what binds a community.
What's the best business advice you've received?I have been encouraged to think of my five-table café in a small town in Alaska, as if it was a big business. I crafted a mission and vision statement and we go back to them often. We also included an inspiration, a word to guide us, and three words that we commit to. Mission Statement We will provide our guests with the opportunity to experience the powerful sense of place through our exceptional cuisine, celebrating Alaska seasonal and regional ingredients, Alaska seafood and Kachemak Bay specialties. We wish to bring people closer together in a creative and positive environment through the sharing of good food. Vision We strive to share with diners the Alaska we love through the expression of our food with the hope that they will go away with a renewed sense of wonderment and respect for the fragility and complex beauty of Alaska. Inspiration 2013 Finding beauty in nature Word 2013 Gratitude Commitment 2013 Exploration Refinement Moving forward
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