A Fresh Start 

Two chefs find new life in their respective kitchens.

click to enlarge Kathy Katz

Justin Fox Burks

Kathy Katz

For 25 years, Kathy Katz has been making sandwiches for college kids at 20/20 Diner at the Southern College of Optometry. Those students were like her children, she says, but she nevertheless found herself looking for a new beginning.

So Katz is leaving the diner she dutifully tended for a quarter of a century for a new venture with an homage to her former one: Cooper Street 20/20.

The basis of the business is a line of prepared foods Katz has developed over the last six years and sold at local farmers markets, including entrées, take-and-bake dishes, and soups. Katz has brought on local chef Stephen Sciara to help with the new business, and the two will focus on using local, seasonal produce and products.

In what was formerly a commercial kitchen for Muddy's Bake Shop, Cooper Street 20/20 will work as a commissary for customers to pick up pre-orders or walk in and select from daily specials and some staples — like Katz' hummus and pimento cheese — that will be available regularly. Many of Katz' other menu items are vegetarian, like her spanikopita, roasted eggplant lasagna, and African peanut soup, but she also plans to work some fish and lean protein into her commissary offerings. Cooper Street 20/20 will eventually offer healthy, complete meals for customers to take home and reheat sous vide, a French method of cooking that heats food sealed in an airtight plastic bag in a hot-water bath.

Katz will still sell at her usual farmers markets, including the Tsunami Winter Market, and will even expand to new markets. But in the downtime before the spring market season, she will open the doors to Cooper Street 20/20 for what she calls a "five-month soft opening" — a chance to find out what customers like and don't like.

"We've got a whole list of dream foods to make. We just have to see what's popular," Katz says.

Once the new space opens in early December, customers can stop by Monday through Friday from noon to 6 p.m. or call to place an order. In addition, customers will soon be able to place orders on the website, cooperstreet2020.com.

Cooper Street 20/20, 800 S. Cooper (871-6879)

Wade Britt of Little Bites Bakery has two rules: no cupcakes ("Memphis already has cupcakes covered," he says) and no bridezillas.

Beyond that, he will make just about any sweet treat for any kind of customer, including anything from the array of items he had at a recent farmers market: carrot cake whoopee pies, rich, chocolaty bouchons, scones, peanut brittle, and sticky buns.

Britt has earned the right to lay down some ground rules for his new bakery, located behind Mollie Fontaine Lounge. At 25, a graduate of Johnson and Wales and on the verge of starting a new restaurant in Richmond, Virginia, Britt took a trip to the emergency room that brought terrifying news: He was in renal, pulmonary, and cardiac failure. The doctors weren't sure why, and he might not make it through the night.

"I figured I was going to be fine, that I'd be able to walk it off," Britt says. "It hadn't really sunk in until they told me to call my parents here in Memphis and tell them to come."

He was eventually diagnosed with Goodpasture's disease, a rare autoimmune disorder that attacks otherwise healthy lungs and kidneys. After chemotherapy and three years on dialysis, Britt put out a request to his Facebook friends for a kidney donation and found one very generous friend was a match.

Britt is now three years into his life with a new kidney. His parents, Martha and Perry Britt, are partners in the bakery, the perfect fit for a culinary whiz with a very particular set of health conditions.

"Being in a bakery is not as hectic [as a restaurant kitchen]. You don't have tickets constantly coming out," Britt says. "I've always enjoyed the zen of baking, and it's something I've been doing at home for a long time."

Chemicals found in industrial cleaning materials are thought to be a trigger for Goodpasture's, so the Britts keep their kitchen chemical-free and pristine. Their ingredients are all recognizable, from the butter to the coconut oil, and they have sworn off hydrogenated oils. Every kitchen cleaner is all-natural, and even the baking soda is a special aluminum-free brand. The Britts are also working on their Project Green Fork certification.

For now, they do not operate a retail front, but you can find Little Bites Bakery at the Cooper-Young Community Farmers Market, or check them out on Facebook or their website for ordering information.

Little Bites Bakery, littlebites@att.net


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