Around the world in ate days
It may be a brand-new restaurant, but Curate Kitchen comes with a lot of history, both local and international.
Jessi Marshall, 37, born and raised in Dixon, comes from an entrepreneurial family.
“Our family-owned a beauty and barber supply store we sold in 2010, and I moved to Arizona to stay in the beauty industry,” Marshall said.
“I worked for the Professional Beauty Association as director of education and special programming. After traveling 15 to 20 days a month nationally and internationally, I wanted out of the race.”
In her 8 years with the association, Marshall visited 15 countries and tasted a wide variety of food.
When she returned to Dixon, she tried a couple of different business ideas, but they didn’t work out. She had changed her lifestyle and her way of eating, so she started researching local food offerings, and found a niche that wasn’t being served in the area.
To curate is to bring unique and different things together, which is what her Curate Kitchen does.
“We cater to specialties,” Marshall said. “Eighty percent of our menu can be gluten-free, 60 percent can be vegetarian, we can make it nut-free.
“Kids grow up eating differently than I did. Now kids eat sushi, curry, and experience international spices – everyone’s palate has changed. Internationally, people eat less processed food.
“I contacted a couple of national home delivery companies, and they were willing to tell me how many people they were delivering to in the Sauk Valley area. I was blown away.”
Her menu reflects her own personal history.
“I called one of my favorite restaurants in Brussels – Café’ La Pompe – and asked for their recipes, and they gave them to me!
“We feature a BLT with Caesar salad and bacon, a four-cheese ‘grown-up’ grilled cheese, and daily roasted tomato and basil,” she said.
Curate Kitchen emphasizes the experience of eating.
“Our focus is not only healthy eating, but ‘mindful eating’: We want the food to be pure, whole, unprocessed. We love the champagne vinaigrette, from Napa grapes, on Brussels sprouts salad, and this summer we’ll use local produce as much as we can.”
The other half of Curate’s dual concept is the full-service coffee bar, which features Intelligentsia Coffee Co. The roast house and home office are at Goose Island Beer Co. in Chicago.
“It’s my favorite coffee because the company is Illinois-based, family-owned, and direct trades from coffee bean farmers in other countries. Coming from a family business, I like to support the family.”
Speaking of family, “Our drive-up window helps parents taking their kids to school – we are close to the river and the bridges, we serve espresso, cappuccino, mocha, and light breakfast to get your day going. And you can call in your order and pick it up.
“In the spring, we’ll begin our patio menu,” she added.
The River Road restaurant is in the building that formerly housed a dry cleaner. Marshall quadrupled the number of windows, which immediately made the building feel more spacey, and more homey at the same time.
“The décor is comfortable-eclectic, a comfortable concept – coffee bar in the front, dining and kitchen in the back. “We only seat 40 people, and we can grow easily. We have 5,000 square feet here, but we only use 4,200 right now.”
The extra lounge area seats 12 to 30, with a sofa, bean bags and coffee trays, can be rented for parties or other gatherings.
“We provide a 45-inch monitor and sound system for presentations or videos, and fully-closing barn doors for privacy,” she said.
Being close to the downtown is a major plus for Curate Kitchen.
“We want to support the downtown restaurant community. Our idea is for you to come in and order an appetizer with your beer/wine, then walk downtown to a local restaurant for dinner,” Marshal said.
“We are excited to be back and part of this community. Dixon has been good for me. I got a great education, made great friends, and now we are beneficial to the Rock River valley.
“Dixon prepared me to come home again.”