How two engineers and one photographer combined passions By Anna Purdy Photos By Robin May
Michelle and JP MacFadyen met while working as electrical and mechanical engineers, respectively, for a little organization called NASA. After years of making sure shuttles and rockets stayed the course, Michelle, a Eunice native, heard the call of home.
For six years Great Harvest Bakery has been offering everything from sweet breads to challah, sandwiches and fair trade gifts.
Until last year Great Harvest was the only certified green restaurant in the state. “Sure, it was trouble to get certified,” JP says, “but was it worth it? Absolutely. The customers may not notice that the sandwiches come on unbleached paper liners, but we do. It’s those little things that matter to us.”
“We have four recycling bins out back,” says Michelle.
Unlike many fair trade bakeries and delis, Great Harvest offers fair trade gift baskets. Fair trade is a socioeconomic movement that advocates paying a higher price to companies that ensure better wages for employees and adhere to higher environmental and social standards. In short, children from poor countries who make pennies a day produce roughly half the goods on U.S. store shelves. Great Harvest offers fair trade gift baskets of everything from soups to gift boxes, to French butter bells and more, along with its edibles that you can feel good giving.
Challah is on the menu here. It’s the cosmopolitan touch that tickles those who appreciate it. Challah is a Jewish bread most often recognized for being braided. It is a lighter white bread to be eaten on the Sabbath or honored in certain ceremonies, but it’s certainly tasty enough to eat every day, by those of any faith or none.
“Were you flogged with a dusty whip?” my coworker asks. No such luck. My answer was that the very morning of this article’s writing I was in Great Harvest’s mill room. One of the charms is that this bakery mills its own flour every single day. A tiny room in the kitchen is set off for the task. Only the highest quality flour can be used. Huge sacks are dropped into the mill, where 800 pounds of stone wheels grind the grain into a fine powder — like two emery boards against one another with only the wheat in between. After this friction the flour is sucked up and through a cooling system and down into a shoot, left to cool. “Our problem is never dust in here. It’s wheat,” says Michelle, laughing. Imagine taking a sack of flour and smashing it on the floor for a second. This is why the milling must be contained as the powder flies everywhere, and in leaning against its door I striped my jacket with its rewards. But it is so worth it. When you eat Great Harvest bread you are eating not only what has been baked that day but also flour made that morning.
Gluten is a buzzword now. You’ll notice Great Harvest has nothing designated as gluten-free even though the ingredients listed hold not a speck of the stuff. The milling process means microscopic wisps of wheat flour may be in the air and if it lands on, say, your salad it technically is no longer gluten free. So does Great Harvest have items without gluten? Yes. It just cannot be guaranteed legally and ethically.
Tuscan Chicken Panini is made on white or wheat focaccia. Focaccia is thick, flat bread usually baked with herbs into it, or in the case of Great Harvest, Parmesan cheese. It’s then brushed with a tomato pesto and pressed with chicken breast, fresh tomato and thin slices of red onion and romaine lettuce. The result is a hot sandwich with those gorgeous grill marks from the press.
The Ya Ya Chicken Salad Sandwich is a huge favorite. The ingredients include honey whole wheat bread with a spiced mayonnaise and nuggets of pecans tucked into the salad, meeting with tomatoes and romaine. It’s an excellent sandwich, and half is easily all you may need for lunch. Make any sandwich a meal by adding a drink and either an apple, chips or one of Great Harvest’s cookies the size of a softball for a few dollars more.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Great Harvest’s salads, but let’s face it: They are not that gorgeous bread, and when I come here I get too tempted by the samples of it to turn to anything else.
Since Sept. 19, a good old-fashioned coffee klatch in the form of Café Cohen has taken over the corner of Great Harvest. Jason Cohen is a Lafayette native whose first passion is professional photography. With a small and dedicated staff Cohen is serving Cultivar Coffee procured from Dallas.
“Everything that we prepare is within two weeks of roasting,” Cohen says. “The coffee we serve is what is seasonal, so as new coffee becomes in season, we will have new coffees available.”
When Cohen decided to pursue owning a coffee shop he knew exactly where to go. “JP and Michelle have been friends for a while, and I approached them about letting me come in and take over their coffee program,” he says. “When I thought of all of the businesses in Lafayette that I would love to be in, they were my No. 1. It made so much sense to me in my head.”
Coffee houses were more prolific than pubs in Europe for most of the 1800s. The ’90s in America saw a vast resurgence of “Colombian black gold,” and it has gone from trend to way of American life. That said, it can be thought of as the domain of snobs. Not at Café Cohen. “Although we take what we are doing extremely seriously, I think that our ultimate goal is to make exceptional coffee that is approachable to anyone,” Cohen says. “I think that the idea of being a place where the community gathers really appeals to me. Also the idea that something we have taken as such a common beverage can actually be exquisite and beautiful, like a fine wine or gourmet food.”
Here’s the thing: if you have never had a cappuccino really well done, with the perfect crema, it’s hard to appreciate why a coffee shop that treats its product so preciously are such a treat. If you have, you know why gas station cappuccinos are mainly a delivery system for hot corn syrup. Cohen is not simply delicious but consistent. I’ve had coffee prepared there by most every staff member, and it is always tasty with the same delicate yet hearty flavors every time. The acidity is low and the richness is in full effect.
Great Harvest and Café Cohen split a space rife with warm atmosphere and plenty of seating, both outdoor and in. From gifts to lunch to picking up a side for dinner to caffeinated conversation, the businesses are in a perfectly arranged marriage to have it all. Find both at 854 Kaliste Saloom Road.