Q&A by Janice Randall Rohlf
J’aime Sparrow and her husband, Christian, own Sunbird Kitchen in Orleans, a neighborhood cafe open year-round, serving seasonally fresh food and craft beverages with creativity and good vibes.
1. Why did you choose to open a restaurant? We started our business with a food truck, which was a way for my husband and me to collaborate and pool our individual talents and interests, mine in food and service, and his in design and marketing. We both worked in our respective fields for over 10 years in San Francisco. Once we successfully tested our concept with the food truck, the cafe was a logical next step. I was familiar with the rewards and challenges of the business and excited to put all that I had learned into practice. And Christian was able to use the opportunity to flesh out the overall Sunbird brand experience in a more permanent space.
2. What advice would you give someone wanting to follow a similar path? The restaurant business is extremely challenging. In our case, success came with diligence, patience, incredible amounts of hard work and a like-minded, dedicated team/flock. Be ready to rarely have a day off, take a vacation, or make ‘lots of money.’ You really have to love what you are doing--customer service, food preparation, management/teaching, marketing, bookkeeping, etc. You have to be present in your business everyday in order to maintain consistency and vision. You also have to be prepared to wear any and all hats to get your business off the ground. Finally, you have to be very patient. Growing a strong and viable business takes time. For most, it does not happen overnight. Be patient.
3. In your business, what has been your proudest moment? I can’t honestly say that there is a single moment. What I am most proud of is the overall brand experience we continue to create for our flock--our guests, our staff, our community, our families and ourselves. Our business has always been a collaboration. First between Christian and myself, then, as time went on and layers were added, between us and our partners, Karen Densmore and Garrett Smythe, and finally a collaboration with our community--guests and staff. We always wanted ‘Sunbird’ to be about Sunbird, not an individual person. It is a singular experience that cannot be imitated, an experience that relies on the vision, dedication and creativity of more than just one person. That said, our ability to provide a great Sunbird experience relies heavily on our staff. We maintain very high expectations for execution and take a hands-on approach, leading by example every day. Whether you are taking an order, making a coffee, cooking/prepping food, or washing dishes, we make every effort to inspire and guide our staff so that they can effectively deliver a thoughtful and authentic guest experience with lots of layers. Our guests have come to expect to enjoy great food, an inspiring space and kind service from Sunbird. I’m so proud that our whole team believes in consistently providing that.
4. How has the CCCI helped you get your business off the ground (if they have), or how would you have benefited from a similar organization when you were starting out? I was not assisted directly by the CCCI. Getting a fledgling food business off the ground is a difficult task. The support this organization provides would certainly have been welcome had it been available to us 10 years ago, and we're so glad to see it assisting others just getting started.
5. What one thing/service in the food industry do you think the Cape is missing? When we moved home to the Cape nine years ago, after 10 years in San Francisco, we missed a lot that was readily available on the West Coast. The Bay Area is a mecca for the local food movement. Access to local food and growers, robust farmers markets, an interest in serving farm to table as ‘fast’ slow food was just beginning to emerge here on the Cape. Today it’s a whole different story. There are many fantastic local businesses that have embraced and helped bring this movement to the Cape. Local farmers and farmers markets, groceries, restaurants, cafes, food trucks, publications, etc. have all made the Cape an even better place than it already was. There is little I think we are missing these days. More importantly, though, I think we are getting better at bringing the best of who we are and what we all do here as a community, to market. It makes us very proud to be a part of it all, and is motivation to continue to do our part.
6. What keeps you busy outside work? I’m a pretty boring person. Sunbird is always a work in progress and most of my ‘free’ time is spent working to improve and grow our business. Christian and I try to sneak away for hike dates or city sprints whenever we can. Otherwise, I get outside early each morning for a bike ride or run, and I read at night.
7. Describe your perfect day of eating on Cape Cod? That’s a hard question. I am surrounded by food every day of the week for hours on end. It’s hard sometimes to separate work from pleasure. I truly love basic ingredients. The simpler, the better. I’m not one for ‘fancied up’ food. I think in general it should be fresh, delicious and as approachable as possible. We source tons of produce from Chatham Bars Inn farm in the summer. Fresh raw peas, garden greens, radishes, beets ... they need little embellishment and provide me, personally, with the greatest eating pleasure.
By Chef Alan
Cod Fish is a delicious white fish popular on the Atlantic Coast of the United States. It’s easy to eat because it has layers of flesh next to one another with very few bones getting in your way. In fact, all parts of the Cod are eaten including the head and cheeks and internal organs such as the liver. The smooth meat of the Codfish is beautiful to look at and so very tasty to eat.
Cod can be broiled, baked, fried or braised. It can also be eaten in other ways. For example, as early as 985 the Vikings learned to eat codfish by hanging it in the frosty winter air on their boats. This created a hard wood-like plank which could be eaten like hardtack. In contrast to the Vikings, the Basques located in the Northern reaches of Spain had salt which enabled them to dry and salt cod and survive longer voyages. Further, the Basques had the advantage of a brighter sun in the Mediterranean waters where they fished thus being able to dry up their sea salt more easily in order to create sea salt which was used to dry foods and avoid food spoilage. (See Mark Kurlansky’s Cod:A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World)
Will Cod fish remain as accessible as it has been historically? Scientists and fishermen differ on this but the fish has become increasingly rare due to a number of modern day technical changes including the aggressive bottom fishing of trawlers where Atlantic Cod spend the majority of their time. And the physiological nature of Cod which leaves them less able to escape the nets which catch them. Finally, the nature of Cod is not an aggressive one. Unlike Blue Fish or Striped Bass, Cod does not fight for its’ food. It lives on the bottom of the sea and feeds itself by eating anything and everything its’ wide-open mouth consumes. It could sadly be the end of an era if the Cod population disappears. We can only hope it’s not too late. Here’s a simple recipe you can make which is easy to assemble in less than 25 minutes,
Roasted Cod Fish with Onions
1- Heat the oven to 425F. Using a metal sheet tray, place a large piece of aluminum foil into the tray; pour all the oil into the pan on the foil. Place onion slices on the oiled tray.
2-Place tray in oven and roast until onion slices are brown – about 7-10 minutes.
3- Cut piece of cod into three equal portions. Place each of the 3 slices of cod on top of the 3 slices of onion.
4- Sprinkle the paprika, tarragon and garlic over all the fish. Add one tablespoon of butter on top of each piece of cod. Sprinkle the parsley over the fish and place one thin slice of lemon on top of each piece of fish. Cook for 15 minutes leaving the temperature at 425 F. Your knife should easily slip into the side of the fish and come out without any moisture showing.
1- Wash the chard thoroughly and dry in salad spinner. Remove largest 3 outer leaves and remove the center vein in each of the 3 leaves. Cut across the 3 leaves to form ribbons of chard.
2- Pour the olive oil into a large frying pan over medium heat. Put the cut leaves into the frying pan and add the minced garlic and shallot. Sauté over medium heat for a few minutes using tongs to toss the strips of chard 2-3 times.
3- Shake the soy and the mirin into the frying pan. Toss all ingredients over medium high heat. Using tongs, place strips of chard on each plate and top with piece of cod.