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Pittsburgh culinary school grad takes to family cafe

By Dan Duran, Point Park News Service:

Stephanie Kielar is the co-owner of The Café at Wittenauers, a restaurant located in Poland, Ohio. Kielar, 24, who graduated from the Art Institute of Pittsburgh with a degree in culinary arts last year, has been running the cafe for the past three months. The Café at Wittenauers, originally a pharmacy in the 1950s, was reopened as a cafe in January 2011.

Cafe owner Stephanie Kielar. Submitted photo
Cafe owner Stephanie Kielar. Submitted photo.

Q: What made you realize you have a special talent for the culinary arts and when?

A: When I was younger, I always wanted to be in the kitchen no matter what. Once I got older and started cooking, I found myself never following an exact recipe; I loved to make up recipes of my own.

Q: What was your biggest obstacle while learning the skills you needed to run the cafe?

A: My biggest obstacle was probably learning how to manage people. I had to step up and learn to designate duties to employees. I never really had to learn how to deal with people. I only had to do that with food. Learning how to communicate with customers and employees the right way was pretty difficult as well.

Q: How did you become associated with The Café at Wittenauers?

A: My future in-laws reopened the cafe while my fiance and I were dating and I was still in school. After I graduated culinary school, they offered me a job. Once my future mother-in-law was ready to step down as the owner, I stepped up and told her I would run the place. I am very fortunate, and I was very lucky.

Q: What do you do on a day-to-day basis for your job?

A: My day-to-day routine hasn’t really changed from my previous job as a regular employee. Pretty much everyday I make sure the pastry cases out front are filled with pastries and breakfast items. I stock all of the food prep in the coolers and make sure everything is ready for cooking. Basically, I just make sure all inventory is stocked up for the day. Every week, three trucks come to deliver packages of silverware, paper bags and napkins. It’s my responsibility to put them away in a neat, organized manner. It’s very simple.

Q: Do you have any inspiration or anyone you look up to related to your career?

A: My inspiration is my future father-in-law. He runs two businesses on his own and has no debt. I think he is such a good role model for younger individuals. He always says he doesn’t like to be have his things owned by others, so he strives to make this happen. He’s a very intelligent person.

Q: What do you think your greatest success was so far with the cafe?

A: So far my greatest success is managing the cafe without the original owners. Being able to have the freedom to come up with new ideas and sell them at the cafe is still crazy for me to think about. To me, that is the most fun. The sky really is the limit.

Q: What do you have planned for the future and does it involve the cafe?

A: For the future, I plan on catering a lot more. Not only for parties and meetings, but maybe cater for houses and businesses. Expanding the cafe in another location would be really amazing. I would love to see this little place grow and become more popular.

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