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Wednesday April 23, 2014
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A Room of Its Own

 

continued

A long counter divides the kitchen from the dining room. "You order at the counter," says Panozzo, "and from there, it's like a regular table-service restaurant."

Neither Engelbert nor Panozzo have restaurant or business backgrounds. Panozzo, twenty-eight, is a graphic designer, and Engelbert, forty-eight, a former professional peace activist (she was the first director of Michigan Peaceworks, which existed from 2001 to 2011). How did they learn to oversee sixteen employees, a restaurant open for two and sometimes three meals a day, and a kitchen that makes everything from its own seitan to baked goods?

Starting a restaurant is "a little like community organizing," Engelbert explains. "At Peaceworks, I organized demonstrations, coordinated publicity campaigns, and raised money." She opens her laptop and slides it across the counter--hundreds of lists, spreadsheets, folders, all neatly labeled and organized. "That's how you do it," and in many ways, she says operating the restaurant is easier than the cart. "Not that I'm not busting my butt, but with the cart we were limited. We struggled with the weather. We could only serve cold-holding and hot-holding foods, so we couldn't make much to order." Now that the Lunch Room actually has a room, with cooking and eating under the same roof, she says they can do what they've been dying to do for a long time: "Make cheeseburgers!"

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