Cafe’s clientele boosts disabled ski school |

Cafe’s clientele boosts disabled ski school

Josh Miller/Sierra SunCindy Smith serves Ed Andreas a cup of coffee at Gentian Cafe at Alpine Meadows on Thursday.

Tucked away in a seldom crowded corner of Alpine Meadows ski resort, the volunteers with the Tahoe Adaptive Ski School are serving up some of the best food available on the mountain.

The Gentian Cafe, located at the base of the Subway chairlift in the Tahoe Adaptive Ski School (TASS) building, has been open since Jan. 17, and has been quietly gathering an appreciative following.

Cafe Manager Steve Wichman, the only paid employee at the cafe, has used his culinary training and 20 years in the restaurant industry to create a growing menu that’s atypical for a ski resort in that everything is made fresh daily.

Specialties of the cafe include their pulled pork sandwich with caramelized onions on toasted sourdough, the fresh turkey sandwich and the vegetarian hot and sour soup, all of which are not available anywhere else at the resort.

Utilizing local suppliers has helped ensure that all the ingredients that go into the cafe’s dishes are of the highest quality.

Because of its out-of-the-way location, the cafe relies mostly on TASS volunteers to take orders, serve drinks and do other routine tasks, an arrangement that allows the cafe to be financially viable and even contribute to the bottom line of the adaptive ski school program.

“We kept thinking that we needed something down here because the main lodge is pretty far away,” said TASS Director Haakon Lang-Ree of the school’s motivation for opening the cafe.

Lang-Ree’s intuition has proved to be accurate as the cafe has quickly become a favorite of TASS volunteers and instructors, as well as with Alpine Meadows’ ski patrollers and lift operations staff.

TASS keeps all revenue from the cafe in an arrangement with Alpine Meadows that essentially allows TASS to occupy the space rent free.

“Alpine Meadows is the biggest donor,” Lang-Ree said, “because they pretty much gave us the space. We don’t pay rent and we don’t even pay a percentage.”

Other big donors include Brian Fidler of the (now closed) Kayak Cafe in Tahoe City, who sold them all of their restaurant equipment at a great price; the Sierra Pacific Coffee Company, which donated all of the coffee making equipment the cafe uses; and Jim Gribble, who has volunteered his skills as a handyman and contractor.

Working at the cafe has been a fun experience for Manager Steve Wichman.

“Just seeing the instructors at work with the adaptive kids – that’s a real joy to witness,” Wichman said, adding that he also really likes working with the volunteers who staff the cafe.

Wichman feels that once the cafe gets its license to sell alcoholic beverages, and as more of the general public learns where the cafe is, the crowds will continue to grow.

“The word is out that the food here is really good,” he said. “Plus our prices are real reasonable too.”

The Gentian Cafe is located at the base of the Subway chairlift at Alpine Meadows. It is open Wednesday through Sunday from 8 a.m. to approximately 4 p.m. (although they do close early some weekdays depending on demand) for breakfast, lunch and coffee. The cafe is closed Mondays and Tuesdays.

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