Whatever we do, there is always room for a little kindness. That was the message I took away after meeting with Meg Rodger at her new eatery, Kind Café, on Hawkins Street in downtown Whitehorse. The crowd, menu, smooth operation and carefully curated space belie a business opened just three months prior. Everything feels homey and well established; some customers are already calling themselves “regulars.”
Rodger, 28, credits that to a supportive community (she was born and raised in Whitehorse and is delighted that many guests and employees are friends and family) and the countless hours she spent carefully planning a space to call her own. The Kind Café is a dream six years in the making. Following the completion of a degree in business management, Rodger spent time teaching in South Korea and traveling to different areas of Asia. There, she was inspired by two things: a variety of ingredients and food combinations new to her, and a deep appreciation of the pristine environment she’d grown up with in the Yukon.
“I remember walking to work in South Korea and not being able to see the cars on the street from the sidewalk because of the smog. It made me look at the bigger picture” she said. Around the same time in her life, Rodger started to take seriously some food sensitivities she’d always experienced. “As a kid I just would not eat dairy. I’d reject it without knowing why. As I got older, I was able to start recognising, ok, if this food doesn’t make me feel good, I can make different choices.”
Dealing with a restricted diet can take some of the pleasure out of eating, with some taking on the mindset that food is an enemy. Rodger said it doesn’t have to be so.
“There’s so much guilt and confusion out there about food. I wanted to show people that food can bring you comfort and still be healthy. You can feel satiated without feeling badly afterwards,” she said.
Rodger began experimenting in her own kitchen, devouring food blogs and discovering alternatives and substitutions for traditional fare via specialty cookbooks. “I really just wanted to bring more kindness everywhere. I wanted to make my dream into something that was kind for people, animals and the Earth.”
The Kind Café offers mostly vegan and vegetarian fare, typically free of gluten, refined sugar and other common ingredients known to affect eaters with sensitivities. However, Rodger has purposely not marketed her business as such because she feels that can send a message of restriction. She strives to offer items that are always healthy and delicious, without judgment. “I want to meet people where they already are in their diets and food journeys. You can come here and find something you will enjoy, regardless of what you normally eat.”
It seems her approach is working, as customers stream continuously through the small and welcoming ground floor space. Rodger finds this immensely satisfying as she admits she “lived and breathed the concept” for years. The food speaks for itself and she notes a measurable bump in business when she posts a snapshot of her creations on social media. In fact, business has been so good that she admits she hasn’t yet had time to reflect on the fact that she is living her dream. A good problem to have, she said, crediting her team for their support and sharing her feeling of being personally invested in their mission to serve up delicious food, with a side of kindness.