Meet the Staff
Owner of At Sara’s Table/Chester Creek Cafe with wife, Carla, since 2002.
I have been working in the food business since 1973. My background includes organic farming, a variety of restaurant work including cooking, and outside of the food industry, construction. I have been a student of both humanities and science and do volunteer and philanthropy work. I live in Saint Paul with my wife Barb and two small dogs, Peanuts and Maggie.
I have been lucky to have spent the majority of my 14 years as a practicing Foodie in small chef-owned restaurants. This has given me a discriminating palate and exposed me to a variety of ingredients and cooking styles. I have a thick passport with stamps from as far away as Morroco and Israel, to Costa Rica, Mexico, and the UK. Throughout my travels I consumed numerous local culinary favorites.
All this travel and time has given my culinary skills a wide range, from Classic French techniques to Cuba Cuisine to Asian fusion not to mention my quirky twists on the down home American fare. My love of gardening and fresh herbs continues to inspire me to create dishes that are local ingredient centered and seasonal. They can feature ramps one week, Morels the next, right on down to turnips and Delicata in the fall.
A strong belief in “right livelihood” has naturally lead me to create enduring relationships with farmers who grow organic produce and humanely raised animals.
I love working At Sara’s Table Chester Creek Cafe in part because they allowed the space for me to create my dream dining experience. An evening of touring a farm then sitting down at a community table for a four course dinner, created from the farms offerings, wine pairing and music. What could be better than fabulous food, great wine and friends!
Front of House Manager
After years of line cooking in the fast paced trenches of commercial restaurants I transferred my love for food and dedication to small chef-owned restaurants. It is here that my interest in farm fresh, organic and homemade food could be explored. My experience here at “Chester Creek” has been a fulfilling one. I have done pretty much everything here in the kitchen and still continue to love it.
Barbara “Diane” Bailey
Diane Baily is the Café’s original pastry chef. She has been the creator of sweet treats and breads at the Cafe over 15 years! With over 35 years of industry experience she is truly a master. From Pie to the Cranberry wild rice bread with classic Christmas cookies in the middle, she can make anything!
Savannah Villa has been pushing the boundaries of Gluten free and Vegan gourmet baked goods at the Cafe for the last 4 years. She has been creating allergy specific Pies, cakes, cupcakes, breads and cookies that are so good most people cannot tell that they are completely Vegan and Gluten Free! A Celiac herself, having tasty treats for every allergy is an important and fun challenge.
I started working at At Sara’s Table/Chester Creek Cafe in October 0f 2010 as a part-time server while attending the University of Minnesota, Duluth as a graphic arts undergraduate. Through my college years I slowly moved my way in becoming a bartender and barista as well. Once I graduated in July 2014, I got offered a new position to become the graphic designer for the restaurant. I was so excited to continue working at the restaurant that supported me through college and to do what I love, art.
Carpenter & Gardener
Former Kitchen Manager – Current Maintenance & All-Around Super Fixit Man
In the early 1990’s Barbara Neubert bought an old trailer and converted it into a traveling espresso shop. That was the beginning of At Sara’s Table. The name came from a novel Barb had written when she was recovering from a long illness. For a couple of summers she and her partner Mary Ann Rish traveled around Minnesota and Wisconsin to events and fairs and began to build a reputation. Eventually, the couple decided they wanted a more permanent home. A small space in a building that had been a restaurant in the ’20s and ’30s was available in the 700 block of East Superior Street in Duluth and Barb rented it. With a very small budget they converted it into a cozy coffee and book shop.
Eventually Mary Ann left the business and Barbara developed a new partnership with Carla Blumberg, who had come to Duluth from Texas. Carla had owned a restaurant in Austin and believed that the coffee shop could be successful in a larger venue with an expanded menu. By chance Barb happened to see a for sale sign on the old Taran’s Food Market and the couple bought it.
Barb and Carla chose Holm Construction for the restaurant project because they had been willing to build the Duluth Women’s Building. The couple worked with the contractor and did a lot of demolition and salvaging of lumber that was to be used in the new building. The wooden ceiling in the front dining room is made with boards from an old walk-in cooler that was in the grocery basement. The tin ceiling in the rear dining room is from the original ceiling found above the suspended grocery ceiling. The booths, tables, wait-station and bookshelves are all made from salvaged lumber.
The restaurant opened in late 2002 and has become a fixture in the Chester Park Neighborhood. Getting a new business off the ground is difficult and the early days were rugged but now operations are smoother. Ever since the beginning the business has wanted to use products that are locally and seasonally produced to hand make healthy and delicious food from scratch. There have been many willing hands helping out over the years. Worthy of mention are:
Michael Stanitus – who formulated our original menu and trained out staff at the very beginning
Bruce Wallis – who for many years headed up the dinner service
Kelly Dowell – the original front of house manager who shaped out systems
Pete Ravinsky – long time breakfast and lunch guru
Jillian Forte – the current kitchen manager who has really made us into what we now are
Avery Cassar – Jill’s assistant
Sara Runholt – head server and graphic whiz
Mike Fudala – bookkeeper and accountant extraordinaire
Rita Bergstedt and Amy Nakamura – running our garden operation
And many, many others to whom Barb and Carla are grateful.
Barb and Carla feel blessed and grateful.