Community sizzle

Setting the table: Steven Liebenhaut and Rosetta Star invite nonprofits and individuals to help organize the community café. Max Cooper
Setting the table: Steven Liebenhaut and Rosetta Star invite nonprofits and individuals to help organize the community café. Max Cooper

The basic method behind sautéing is the toss: put your ingredients in the pan and encourage them to mingle.

Steven Liebenhaut and Rosetta Star hope to do the same thing with people (minus the actual cooking part). With a group of like-minded folks, they're organizing Sauté, a community café that will encourage interaction between strangers and provide healthy meals to the community on a sliding pay scale.

“The focus for us is local food and health and wellness and also everyone at the table, so inclusiveness,” Star says. She owns Rosetta's Kitchen where she serves the “Everybody Eats” plate, a dish of beans and rice with a donation-based cost. Now, she thinks its time to extend that concept into its own space.

When Steven Liebenhaut, a manager at Amazing Savings, approached her about developing a community café, she was eager to learn more. Recently, the pair attended the One World Everybody Eats Foundation summit in New Jersey, where they learned about community cafés around the country. They hope to model the Asheville restaurant on F.A.R.M. Cafe in Boone.

Through his events company, steveNyou, Liebenhaut organizes benefits for community nonprofits. He plans to use that skill-set to pull different groups and donors together to create Sauté. He hopes the café will provide food service training as well as healthy meals. “[People] could come to us as a transition and hone their skills so that when they do go out to get another job, they're not as nervous,” he says.

The restaurant, which doesn't have a location yet, will be a collaborative project between nonprofits and private groups. Star will not own the restaurant, and it's not an extension of the Rosetta's brand. “This concept is so aligned with the work that so many different groups are already doing, from Green Opportunities to MANNA FoodBank to ABCCM to Slow Food and ASAP,” she says.

Star envisions Sauté as a gathering place for the entire community, from college students to homeless individuals. “Everyone has something to offer, and everyone has something that they need,” she says. “When you find a space where things can collaborate, then you have something that's kind of magical.”

Currently, Sauté is in the planning stages. In March, a group of nonprofits, restaurant industry professionals and interested volunteers held two meetings to begin brainstorming. Star says the leadership roles are still being determined, and there's plenty of room for people to get involved at this early stage. To help with Sauté, send an email to stefanie.e.wilkins@gmail.com or look for it on Facebook.

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