Thank you to Colleen Glenn for providing this meeting recap!
The Food and Consumer Science Professionals last official event of the 2016-17 year was definitely a night to celebrate and remember! We gathered at the Birchwood Café in Minneapolis on June 13. After a time of networking, dinner was served. Attendees dined on crostini & cracker pickle plates, micro green salad, vegetable hand pies, and an assortment of Birchwood café sweet treats! After dinner, we were treated by an interview style chat with Soile Anderson and Eleanor Ostman, Soile’s friend for over 30 years and co-author of Celebrations to Remember. Everyone enjoyed hearing Soile Anderson’s journey to the accomplished and well-respected businesswoman and restaurateur she is!
Soile grew up on a farm in Finland and learned to cook at an early age from her mother to help feed all of their farm help. Soile’s first catering event was for her friend’s wedding, to help keep the expenses low. She kept this catering job a secret from her mother prior to the event. Soile started a college education, but was soon married and had 2 kids that kept her very busy. One day she saw a restaurant for sale on a daily morning run with her child and she was back to work! She described her first restaurant as having a wild west theme while serving Finnish foods. With a theme unlike anything else in the area–it was an instant hit! From there with support and encouragement from local businesses, it was suggested she open and run a 120 bed hotel and spa. Once that was up and running and proving to be another success, Soile came to America to study the concept of fast food, which was non-existent in Finland. While in the U.S and with her impressive experience and reputation, she met David Speer, who worked at a PR Firm, and he encouraged and helped her get her a green card, bank loan, and role as chef-owner of a restaurant in St. Paul, soon to be known as Deco. Soon that blossomed into a catering company and wanting to expand further, she opened a small bakery that grew to having 5 locations. Soile summarized her journey as coming to America with no money, no connections, and not knowing the English language, but thanks to word of mouth, things started to snowball and grew exponentially.
Soile and Elanor also told some fun narratives throughout the evening, including a story of an eager female customer who was impressed with all Soile had accomplished and wanted that for herself, too. Knowing how much work went into her journey, Soile suggested that she should shadow her for a day. At 4 a.m. the woman showed up in high heels, and despite suggesting she change shoes, was determined she could do it. After eight hours running around the restaurant, the apprentice said her feet were very sore and she was too exhausted and could not continue with the catering portion of her job shadowing opportunity that evening.
Soile described her most stressful catering event. Right before dinner service at a wedding in Lake Pepin, one of the staff members accidently knocked over the table of forty salmon dinners (half of the attendees entree for the evening). With it being such a remote location, Soile quickly called one staff member at her bakery and told him to get the salmon that was supposed to be used for the following morning’s brunch and drive as fast as he could from the Twin Cities to the wedding. Meanwhile, Soile did everything she could (with a few white-lies) to stall the dinner service. She expanded the cocktail hour telling the mother-of-the-bride they had extra appetizers they wanted to serve, then persuaded the wedding party to launch into their speeches before dinner, out of schedule. Eventually they served the salad and when it was time to start clearing the salad plates, the salmon still hadn’t arrived! Soile told her staff to work extremely slow clearing the plates, stay calm, and if the guests complained to just let it slide. Finally, the salmon arrived and thankfully with a quick cooking time, the dinner meal was able to be served. To this day, the mother-of-the-bride never knew what happened that evening! This was one of the many times throughout the evening that Soile mentioned she was so lucky to have the best staff and she is so thankful for their loyalty and enthusiasm that made the restaurant, bakery, and catering events as successful as they were. Some of her staff even stayed with her throughout her career for over 30 years!
The evening concluded with book signing and an additional opportunity to network.