Nfld. & Labrador

10 years that changed lives: Why the Hungry Heart Cafe is about more than the food

The restaurant offers a steady job and a chance to be "part of a community."

Chef Carolyn Power and server Paul Furey are helping the café mark its 10th anniversary

Carolyn Power is executive chef at Hungry Heart. Paul Furey has been working there since its start a decade ago. (Paula Gale/CBC)

Paul Furey is the first person most customers see when they eat at the Hungry Heart Cafe in St. John's.

He's been there since the restaurant with a mission opened its doors a decade ago.

"Prior to the Hungry Heart, I was on the street as a hitchhiker. Now I'm no longer streetside. I have an apartment, I have a steady job in Newfoundland and I like it very much," Furey said, as the café prepared to mark its 10th birthday with a little celebrating.

The full-service restaurant and catering company is operated by Stella's Circle, formerly the Stella Burry Corporation, with a mandate to train people who have barriers to employment — people like Paul Furey.

"Stella Burry is people first. You don't become just a number like you do in some big corporations," he told CBC Radio's St. John's Morning Show on Friday.

"You're actually front line with the customers and there's a lot of conviviality there. You meet them as individuals and they're nice people to be with."

Recipe for growth

It's been an eye-opener for executive chef Carolyn Power too.

"I was finding cooking a little shallow, I think for awhile," she said. "I mean I love food and it's really important to me that the food is great, but the social mission of Stella's Circle and the Hungry Heart. It constantly helps me grow."

Power said the café exposes staff to all facets of the industry, but recognizes they have different skills and need a go-slow approach.

"There's ways that we temper it a bit, so you are not exposed to the pressure right away."

Hungry Heart Cafe is featuring 10 recipes, including this chicken and sweet potato curry, for $10 to celebrate its 10th anniversary. (Hungry Heart Cafe/Facebook)

At the same time, not all customers know what the Hungry Heart is about, she said.  And everyone expects a good meal and good service.

To mark its anniversary the cafe is offering 10 meals for 10 days for $10 each, offerings that include moose stroganoff and eggs benedict.

Since the Hungry Heart is known for its scones, there is also a recipe contest called #homeofthescone.

Still, the mission — and being part of a community — remain the most important things, Power said.

"I just get a little chill. When I'm in the middle of it, I don't think about it but when I talk about it I see how great it is and you can see the change that it makes for some people."

As for Paul Furey, "It's been beautiful. It's been steady job in Newfoundland and a real employment opportunity that lasted a lot longer than I was expecting."

About the Author

Marilyn Boone is a producer who works with the CBC bureau in St. John's.

With files from St. John's Morning Show