Food memories are a powerful thing. Just ask restaurateur Juan Barajas, who operates the Savory Café in Woodland with his wife, Kristin Hansen. “My mother comes from a large family, so having a lot of family around her almost requires feeding people for large gatherings,” says Barajas. “My mom and grandmother have always been great cooks, and we’ve always had locally grown, locally sourced food. I consider myself a blessed person to have grown up this way.
Barajas, who speaks with envy of the homemade queso fresco he savored in his youth, was inspired by these early experiences to open a restaurant where the connection with food is personal. “Farmers are based on the first name in our kitchen. We always respect the ingredients they produce, ”says Barajas. “Our eggs come from Dan and Annette; our asparagus comes from Deborah and Jim. They are very passionate and proud of the ingredients they grow. “
Barajas is equally passionate about the way ingredients are used in his cooking. Take the huevos rancheros, one of the cafe‘s most popular dishes. “It starts with the corn tortillas, it’s the staple, then the farm-fresh eggs,” Barajas says, reciting the ingredients in a way that suggests he has an intimate connection to each element. “Our recipes are built from ingredients grown around us, but they’re also based on the memories we have.”
Barajas has a long-standing connection to agriculture – his father was a farmer who once dove above the lush green fields of Yolo County. Now he’s embarking on a project to connect customers to ingredients through gardening. He has set up a 500 square foot greenhouse in front of the restaurant where, in addition to sitting, he grows seedlings for what he calls “grow boxes” of green vegetables and edible flowers. “Our goal is to get people to create their own gardens,” he says.
As Barajas says, running a restaurant is more than serving good food. “Our philosophy is that we must provide more than a commercial service. The restaurant is a platform for us to serve the community in a broader way. 722 Main Street, Woodland; (530) 668-4009; savorycafeonmain.com