“I’m not going to be sitting on the couch, I’m going to use this time to create more new and exciting things and get ready for the spring,” Bryan Ehrenholm says of his choice to temporarily close The Stop Café in Modesto to help ‘flatten the curve’ of the COVID-19 virus. “Let’s take care of people, our elderly, vulnerable people,” he says. “It’s tough but I can see why we have to do it.”
You may know him better as ‘Chef Bryan,’ because Ehrenholm has been the chef behind several favorite area restaurants. Ever had an apple dumpling at Oakdale’s Bloomingcamp Ranch? Those were Bryan’s. He was also the owner-chef of Modesto’s beloved Lunch Pail. Now he’s back with The Stop Café, and he isn’t letting this unexpected hiatus get him down. The Living Series Magazines caught up with Ehrenholm recently for a lively Q&A.
The Living Series: The Stop Café is at American Chevrolet on Modesto’s Auto Row. Does that mean I’ll have to run the gauntlet of salespeople before I can eat?
“They’re not like that at all,” he laughs. “They’ll just show you the way to the café.” The 28-seat eatery has its own building on the property.
TLS: What’s the hardest part of being a chef? The hours? The pace?
Neither. He fires up his stove at 3am and walks over twenty thousand steps daily in his tiny kitchen but Chef Bryan says “I love the hours, the pace. No, “the hardest thing…is when someone wants to modify [your food without trying it.]” He sympathizes with allergy sufferers, and appreciates religious restrictions. But he wants you to trust him. At least enough to try one bite.
TLS: How’s our palate here in Stan County? Are we foodies? Or fast-foodies?
“There’s always going to be the meat and potatoes crowd,” the chef says, “but a lot of it is education” and experience—good or bad. Ehrenholm recalls a friend from his chef school days who vowed he hated vegetables, though he did admit it might be because, ‘my mother’s vegetables are brown…’
Ehrenholm doesn’t knock Stanislaus County’s support for picking up dinner rather than cooking it. “We’re a fast food generation. Cheap and fast versus handmade.” But he does see hope springing from an unlikely source.
TLS: How do you think the Shelter-in-Place orders will effect on our eating and cooking habits?
“People may try cooking. The number one Googled recipes right now are how to make homemade bread and homemade biscuits.” YouTube is “a great learning tool,” he says, as well as apps such as Blue Apron.
TLS: What’s The Stop Café’s best sellers? What should I order?
“I have seven basic sandwiches on my menu all the time,” plus a sandwich and soup of the month, and a chef’s choice. There’s also salads, and “’grab and go goodness’ entrees. I have fantastic coffee roasted by Peter James, with brewed as well as barista drinks including frappes.” His Ultimate Chocolate Chip cookie with sea salt and apple boysenberry turnovers sell out daily.
TLS: Those Lunch Pail pies, those Bloomingcamp apple dumplings—why don’t you sell them at The Stop Café?
“We get requests for them all the time,” Chef Bryan says, but his current kitchen is too small. “We came up with the ‘portable pies’ that we sell out of every day. But the dumplings, customers might find them on the menu someday…”
TLS: What are you working on right now? And please say ‘dessert.’
Chef Bryan says he’s creating new treats (“You can look forward to a white chocolate lemon brownie. It’s delicious!”) as well as improving on some old Lunch Pail favorites (“A cherry chocolate chip toffee cookie—now I’ve got it thicker and chewier and so much better.”)
TLS: Settle an argument: nuts or no nuts in your chocolate chip cookies?
“Walnuts. Because they belong there.”
TLS: How will we know when you’re open again?
“Sign up for our newsletter online at TheStopCafe.com, or follow us on Facebook and Instagram at TheStopCafeModesto.”
The Stop Café Modesto
At American Chevrolet: 4742 McHenry Avenue, Modesto