NEWTON DEE CAFÉ
by Carla Whittaker talking to Laura Leoz-Wilce
“As soon as I walk into the Café I put on an apron and wash my hands. Depending on what day it is, I do different jobs. On Mondays I clean the fridge in the kitchen with a cloth and fold tea towels. But what I enjoy most is making food, making the specials for Tuesday’s lunch with Laura. I sometimes choose what we will make and do the cooking together with Laura. My specialty is to make pancakes - I’m very good at it! Then I write the recipes we‘ve used in my cookbook and tidy up the kitchen. Tidying and cleaning up is very important in the café, and we always have to make sure our hands are clean too. In the meantime, Audrey folds napkins and aprons; Emma takes boxes back to the confectionery and gets all the dishes washed, dried and tidied away together with Jenny; and Katrin, Ali and Hochang make soups.
“Somehow, we also manage to get all the shelves cleaned, cupboards tidied up, paperwork done, bins emptied, teas, coffees and hot chocolate refilled, flowers on the tables, tables and chairs scrubbed, windows cleaned, plants watered and any other job we can think of, done! Mondays are busy because, although we have no customers, we prepare the whole café from top to bottom for a week’s worth of people, children, babies, wheelchairs, walkers, hiking boots, muddy boots, pushchairs and other such things, to come in and enjoy their time.
“On Tuesdays it’s different. On Tuesdays I wash and dry the dishes together with Rachel and then, around 3 o’clock, I take the compost down to the House Garden. Audrey cuts croutons, takes the basket back to the confectionery and folds napkins. Our customers use a lot of napkins! Emma helps a little with the dishes, but on Tuesday her main job is to make soup with a co-worker, and she always makes lovely, tasty ones. Linsey makes another special for Wednesday with Laura, and they usually look very busy, but somehow always get done before Linsey goes home at 4 o’clock. The co-workers serve customers, make drinks, cut cakes, work on the till and do all the in-between jobs that need doing.
“There is a big event every day in the café and that is the arrival of a group of men who come in, sometimes covered in sawdust, make a huge order of drinks and take over the crossword - the joiners. They come in for their tea break and at least one of them always has something friendly to say; some of them are cheeky, sometimes they can have grumpy days and other times they are in a talkative mood.
“The people working in the store also come in for their tea breaks, but luckily they do it in smaller groups or pairs. It’s always nice to see our friends, have a chance for a quick catch-up and even finalise plans for the evening or weekend. But we also need to remember that we are still working and shouldn’t hang around chatting for too long, there’s work to be done!
“The most important person in the café hasn’t been mentioned yet - the boss. Our boss is Madeleine and you are probably wondering what can there possibly be left for her to do? A lot. Madeleine looks over us all to make sure we’re working and doing our jobs properly; she goes to the office to meetings, do paper work and get the post; she goes to the Craft Studio to use the drier for our aprons; serves customers; does a lot of cleaning, especially making sure our cloths get washed; does more paper work in the café; and constantly answers the phone!
“As you can see, we are a very busy workshop with lots of different jobs that need doing. But don’t worry, we also get tea breaks, have chats, sometimes have sing-alongs in the kitchen, tease each other, make jokes and have fun while we work hard. We also have a yearly Christmas party with the store and a summer barbecue, so it’s worth being in this workshop!”