By Karyl Carmignani

Jessie Tuno hasn’t always been a wizard in the kitchen, patiently parsing ingredients and meticulously melding flavor notes. But after an arduous two-decade journey, she is now a certified chef and business owner of Butter and Bean at the Southern Market — with expansion on the way.

This spring she is opening the Butter and Bean Café in the Tanger Outlets.

“I got married at 20 and I couldn’t cook to save my life,” Tuno says. “My specialty was all the Helpers —Hamburger Helper and Chicken Helper.”

Fortunately, she met a retired chef while working at Panera Bread. The way he talked about food was intriguing, she says, and really opened her eyes to the possibilities. Later, she became the food service manager at her church and one event in particular changed her life.

“It was a breakfast for about 50 people and we ran out of meat,” Tuno says. “And I put the prepared eggs in an aluminum pan, and the chemical reaction turned the eggs green!”

While Tuno loved the job, she knew she needed more education, so she enrolled in the culinary and pastry arts program at the Pennsylvania School of Culinary Arts when she was 30.

“I was the oldest person in my class, so the other students avoided me at first,” she says. “But soon they were asking me questions.”

The school left an indelible mark on her skills as well as her heart. “I knew I wanted to go back there and teach.” After graduating, Tuno became the program director there for four years.

Opportunity knocks

While Tuno was honing her culinary skills, and friends and family were encouraging her to step out on her own, she heard about Southern Market seeking vendors for their new food court. Tuno knew she wanted to be part of that and applied.

The revitalized space at Southern Market welcomes flavors from around the world. The original concept for Southern Market of being a business incubator for new entrepreneurs has expanded to include established food vendors.

The market also provides up-and-coming businesses owned by women and people of color with low-cost training to help them learn and grow, says Mike Mason, chief programs officer with ASSETS. He says the organization strives for an “ethical and equitable economy that works for everyone.”

The goal, Mason says, is to eliminate barriers for people to start their business and to transform communities for good.

Tuno says her training at Southern Market was a huge blessing. Learning the back end of running a business, like payroll and accounting, is key to being a successful entrepreneur. She says her culinary background has been instrumental in creating her signature breakfast pastries as well as her not-too-sweet flavored syrups made in-house for Butter and Bean’s featured drinks, such as the French toast latte and bourbon cherry coffee with caramel and toffee notes.

Even the coffee beans used at Butter and Bean were thoughtfully sourced.

“I tasted a lot of coffee to find the roaster we wanted,” she says.

Tuno discovered Máquina Coffee, a roaster in Coatesville, on Instagram. “He’s passionate about giving back to the coffee bean farmers and he’s fantastic to work with,” she says of the roaster who, like Tuno, is Puerto Rican.

The journey

It hasn’t all been sugar and cream along the way for Tuno.

“As a woman — and a woman of color — we have to prove ourselves a lot more,” she says. “It’s improved in recent years but sometimes they don’t look at the work you’ve put in.”

She says that culinary school is 70% to 80% male, and as a woman you always have to push and prove to people you know what you’re doing. She’s been told she’s “too pretty” to work in the kitchen and should stick to front-of-the-house positions. She’s had people ask for her husband when seeking the manager of Butter and Bean.

Sexism aside, Tuno loves her work. “We’re the morning bartenders” she says, referring to her early-bird customers.

Tuno has faced challenges beyond the business world as well.

Five years ago, her home burned down. Everyone got out — including the dogs — and they rebuilt from the ashes, grateful to be alive.

But, she adds, “The smell stays with you a long time.”

These days, the scents of coffee beans and fresh pastries fill her days.

The new Butter and Bean Café opening this spring at Tanger Outlets will replace the Hershey Farm Café. Tuno’s café will have longer hours than her downtown shop and serve an expanded menu with sandwiches, salads, soups and her gourmet coffee drinks. Tuno is excited about this new endeavor, though the fear of failure is never far away.

But she has a motto she’s been living on as an entrepreneur: “It’s easier to do nothing and tell yourself it will never work out, than to attempt something and find out.”

Words to live by for us all.

See Original Article at Lancaster Online