Imagine a menu that offers so much variety it actually changes on a daily basis. You choose your portions and then pay what you are able or what you think your meal was worth. If you do not have money to buy a meal, you can volunteer an hour of your time and eat for free. Those who serve your food are also the people who helped prepare it, allowing you to find an immediate answer to the age-old question “It looks good, but what’s in it?”
Sounds too good to be true, right?
Such is the organization of One World Café, a non-profit community café in downtown Salt Lake City.
Denise Cerreta founded One World Café in 2003. It is now part of several non-profit cafés nationwide that make up the One World Everybody Eats Foundation. The café provides delicious, healthy meals to all who desire to eat, regardless of their financial situation.
When I heard about this revolutionary idea of choosing my portions and what I wanted to pay for them, I was curious about how it worked. I decided to give it a try with a friend.
Upon entering the café, we immediately noticed the friendly atmosphere. We were greeted kindly by one of the cooks/servers who directed us to choose our plate size. Although we were only required to pay what we deemed fair, we did see price suggestions according to the size of plate written on a blackboard (small: $4 to $6, medium: $7 to $9, large: $10 to $12.)
Our server then described each of the dishes laid out in front of us, buffet style. The main dishes included sweet curry over brown rice, a unique asparagus quiche on a potato crust, and seasoned beef bursting with flavor.
An assortment of fresh salads complimented each of the main dishes, including a zesty marinated carrot and cucumber salad, and a wild rice salad with celery and tomato.
We tried a bit of everything. We also chose a drink from a selection of coffee, tea, soymilk, almond milk, or water.
The One World Café offers a cozy, “feel like you’re eating in your mother’s dining room” atmosphere. Each of several dining rooms contains only a couple of dining tables to provide a sense of privacy. A patio in front allows for dining al fresco.
In addition to the warm, inviting atmosphere and the plethora of food and dining options, the food itself at One World Café was simply succulent and mouthwatering. The ingredients were clearly fresh. Most were organic.
“I believe in getting food as close to the source as possible,” One World Café manager David Spittler said.
Sunflower Farmers Market donates many of the ingredients used at One World Café. The café also participates in Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), where a monthly fee is paid to a local farm for its fresh produce.
Spittler became an advocate of fresh, organic food while he worked on a peach farm after high school. The peaches they shipped to places such as Wal-Mart, Spittler said, were picked while they were still green, thus robbing the produce of many vital nutrients.
Using several of their favorite cookbooks, Spittler and a group of regular volunteers decide how to use the fresh ingredients as they prepare a weekly menu — about a week in advance.
“We try to make the menu as friendly to everyone as possible,” he said.
“My favorite cold dish was the Cucumber and Carrot Zest,” said customer Lauren Snow on a recent visit. “The ingredients were so simple but it had so much flavor, and it’s something I can make at home.”
One other point in One World’s favor: very little food at the café goes to waste. Because customers choose their portion sizes, they eat most of their food.
Furthermore, the food that is left over at the end of the day, such as salads, can often be reused in another dish the following day. Although the hot dishes are not reheated, Spittler said, they are often reused in a soup. Any leftover waste is recycled as compost.
One World’s kitchen is small, but out in the open for all to see. Customers can watch their meals being cooked. With only one six-burner stove in operation, something is always cooking.
“We can’t prepare large quantities [of food] at one time,” said volunteer Isaac Hoppe. “This is a good thing because it’s fresh.”
Whether you’re looking for a pleasant dining atmosphere, a delicious variety of well-prepared dishes, or would simply like to help feed the hungry of Salt Lake City, the One World Café has something for everyone.
One World Café
41 S 300 East, Salt Lake City, UT 84111
Hours: Wed -Sun, 8 a.m. -7 p.m.; Fri –Sat, 8 a.m. -9 p.m.
Phone: 801-519 – 2002519- 2002