The Crooked Root Café, launched by Claire Stanton ’15 and Pamela Soffer ’15, is nearing its one-year anniversary next month. Because Soffer and Stanton studied abroad in London and Barcelona respectively in the fall of 2013, the café only recently reopened in 2014.
The Latin American-inspired café is student-run and was first officially opened in Murray-Dodge Hall on April 19 of 2013. It is open every Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
All of the proceeds from Crooked Root are donated to Hogar la Alegría, one of 34 foster homes in Colombia under the supervision and management of the organization La Fundación Hogares Claret, which helps abandoned children or children from impoverished families. Soffer had worked at Hogar la Alegría for the first time after his junior year of high school and Stanton worked there after her freshman year at the University.
Crooked Root Café primarily offers a Latin American-inspired menu, including breakfast burritos, empanada de pollo, cornmeal tortillas known as “arepa rellena de queso” and Colombian coffee. Stanton added that they have been thinking about expanding the menu.
Stanton noted that opening Crooked Root Café was not without its difficulties.
“We had to get through a bunch of hoops and turns with health regulations and all that,” Stanton said. “I had to become a certified food handler who had to be on premises at all times when the café was open.”
Stanton and Soffer have been roommates since their freshman year in 2011, and Soffer noted that the ideas for Crooked Root first started in 2012.
“We wanted to find something where we could cook and also do something good for the world at the same time,” Soffer said.
Stanton explained that she first thought of starting a café after hearing of similar ventures that her friends at other schools were involved with, and Soffer said that her love of cooking is a result of the influence of her mother, who is Colombian.
As for future goals, Stanton and Soffer said that they are considering moving the enterprise from Murray-Dodge into another space in the fall of 2014, and Stanton said they are keeping in close contact with Dining Services in order to facilitate this possible move.
One future concern, Stanton said, is to maintain Crooked Root’s dedication to fostering a sense of community, not just on awareness and advocacy for the Colombian project.
“We’ve been trying to do at least one student music performance per opening,” Stanton said. “We paired with Team U and some other Pace groups last year.”
Past student performers have included Lachlan Kermode ’17, Mark Watter ’14, Cristina Perruccio ’14 and Caroline Reese ’14.
“The performance element brings that cultural vibe, as does the food they serve,” Reese said, adding that she supports the different and refreshing atmosphere that the café brings to campus.
Deirdre Ricaurte ’16, a volunteer since the inception of the café in 2013, recalled how much fun it was to learn and experiment with new recipes under Soffer’s and Stanton’s guidance.
“It’s super fun because you don’t need any experience and they’re super happy to get help,” Ricaurte said.
Soffer said that the café has had a very positive response from the student body and incredible support from staff.
“It’s been pretty difficult because there’s no established base for this type of thing but we were lucky enough to get Murray-Dodge,” she said. “At first, it was people that we knew and now we get people coming in who we’ve never seen before which is super exciting. We’d love to get our message out to more people and be more on the radar.”