by Mitchell Brown, Reporter
A few days before Earth Day, local chef Julie Kendall brought a multifaceted message to the University of Central Missouri. Her speaking engagement was sponsored by UCM’s Office of Sustainability and took place Thursday April 19, as a part of the ninth annual Teach-In, a collection of events, panels and talks, with a focus on environmentalism
During her presentation, Kendall intertwined the subjects of sustainability, artistic creativity, localism and consumer responsibility. She also peppered the discussion with talk of her own experiences, her journey as she called it.
“I always felt that being green and sustainable wasn’t a checklist, it was a creative journey,” Kendall said. “You can say I recycle, I don’t wear leather, I drive an eco-car. You can do all of those things, but if you make it a creative journey, it takes your ego out of it and forces you to look at your everyday items, and for me, that’s what it’s been, and it’s reshaped my life.”
Kendall is known in Warrensburg, Mo. as the owner and operator of Cafe’ Blackadder and a supporter of the arts. During her presentation, she delved into the details of how Cafe’ Blackadder came to be. A turning point in Kendall’s life happened in 2009 when she opened the unique eatery located at 121 N. Holden St.
“I was going through a divorce, a foreclosure, several family members had died, my ambition to go to graduate school had drifted away and I hated my job,” Kendall said. “During that time, I was offered an opportunity, an opportunity to trade my labor, which included me escaping all of this pain I was going through, in order to use the building for a potential business. I had very little money, but I had ambition and creative energy”
Kendall opened Cafe’ Blackadder at a cost of $10,000. She scraped and scrounged to come up with the essentials. This part of her story mirrored the old adage of necessity being the mother of invention. The financial constraints Kendall faced further spurred her creativity regarding the newly emerging business.
“Sustainability and creativity are sometimes more easy to grasp when they come out of necessity,” Kendall declared.
Kendall explained that being a green business, meaning eco-friendly and environmentally conscious, was always part of her plan with Cafe’ Blackadder.
“We reused all the existing wood, we even hammered nails straight on the sidewalk, I spent months repairing chairs and tables, and going to thrift stores and getting napkins and silverware, and it was fun,” she said. “It was a creative journey.”
“When I first opened, I had one Crock-Pot I bought for five dollars from the Salvation Army.”
Kendall shifted from relaying her own personal anecdotes about the creation of Cafe’ Blackadder to how the pursuit of sustainability and eco-friendly procedures applies to her business.
“As a chef, I’ve come to understand that chefs have a responsibility, and I take that very seriously,” Kendall said.
She emphasized localism and explained how she is able to reduce food waste by working with local food producers, as opposed to a large food distribution corporation.
“Let’s talk about why sourcing locally for the cafe is undeniably beneficial,” Kendall said. “I have greater control over my food costs. If there is a production problem, I can go straight to the producer and talk to them. For example, in the past working with large companies, you get a box of potatoes that’s short dated and they’re moldy… I return them, they go to a warehouse, I tell my representative, my representative talks to the regional distributor, the regional distributor talks to the producer or the producer’s secretary, then the producer’s sectary potentially talks to the producer, and maybe a month later I hear back.”
Kendall spoke about the contrast present when going with local food growers and distributors.
“I talk to Buckeye (local farm Buckeye Acres), I get a rotten cabbage, and I say hey this is rotten, he gets back to me the next day, and we know what the problem is, and it’s solved.”
For more from Kendall and Cafe’ Blackadder, follow them on Facebook here.