Friday, September 1, 2017

PART ONE: A 5 Star Recipe: The Making of the Stehekin Pastry Company

We attempt to honor Cragg and Roberta Courtney's contributions to the Stehekin Valley experience in the following two part story. We commend you, Cragg and Roberta for your hard work and dedication to Stehekin…. 

A Tribute to Roberta and Cragg Courtney 

She’s been featured in Martha Stewart ‘s Living Magazine, has appeared in National Geographic at age 10,  had her photo taken with Washington State Governor Christine Gregoire. You won’t find an article about Stehekin that does not mention her name or her place of fame: The Stehekin Pastry Company. Yet, in all of her Northwest and beyond fame over her 28 years of operation, Roberta Courtney remains a believer in generosity, benevolence and management with compassion.
Photo from Martha Stewart Feature
Roberta and her husband Cragg, have created the new most favored and beloved  destination of visitors and locals. The big question of how far is it to the highly sought visual, Rainbow falls, has now been replaced by…how far is it to the Bakery? The answer is a two mile trek from the boat landing to the glory of culinary treats and meals where you must weave through a heavily traveled path full of  rental bikes, hikers, strolling couples, buses, rented Rangers all  drawn like magnets to this delightful compliment to mountain majesty. From mid May to Mid October, visitors are on a “bakery mission.” 

Today, mid August, Roberta is catching her breath, standing on the steps of her Bakery entrance.  Her ear phones around her neck dangle. “Just fixed the water intake,” she reports. “Just” actually means hiking up a steep mountainside, and directing a mountain stream to go where it should. The sprinklers in the beautiful fields near the Bakery are now running, again. She is heading back to her long wooden workbench covered with everything from a stack of pie plates, to large bread sheets full of round dinner rolls to a cavalcade of spatulas, bowls, big spoons. 

Delicious Sourdough Dinner Rolls

Pie Production: Personally Crafted Every time

Back at her station, surrounded by her bustling helpers, bowls of pie fillings, and a myriad of baked goods in process, Roberta’s hands are expertly shaping pie dough for some 20 different pies. However, her eyes are taking in 360 degrees of activity at the same time. Rolls are being shaped, icing is being swirled on cinnamon rolls, soup of the day is being assembled,  the propane stove is roaring as it bakes bread and customers are lining up three and four deep. Roberta sees the line up of enthusiastic requests at the counter, wipes her floury hands on her apron and joins her helpers up front.
Some know her as “Robbie,” those that have known her for her lifetime  as friend and neighbor dedicated to the Stehekin Valley. To others, she is “Roberta,” creative and hard working owner operator of the Stehekin Pastry Company. With either name,  her jaunt up the mountain this morning to fix a problem first hand speaks of her life philosophy: Hard work plus compassion, and the bottom line: a worthy, successful product.
Roberta and Hannah tackling salad orders
“She makes me want to learn more…" says Hannah Geitl, the Bakery’s creative soup salad and sandwich chef. “Robbie is inspiring…she knows so much, she sees so much, she does it all…she sees things way beyond what her hands are doing. She’ll say, ‘Someone check the coffee,’ and she’ll be right on when there is one cup left.
She is always saving the day…she does a lot …it’s cool…she’s knows when I need help. I would go so far as to say she is …omniscient!”

Hannah explains the creativity that has to flow from day to day between the staff and Roberta. “One of my favorite things to make is any hot delicious saucy sandwich. “I was making Rueben’s, and we ran out of sauerkraut. Robbie invented a delicious slaw on the spot of fresh cabbage and jalapenos, and through her emergency miracle working, a new town favorite was born: The Ruebenesque.”

From Roberta's Eagle Perch :)
Roberta is quick to give credit to her staff, and her husband Cragg for the day to day challenges that emerge.
 “Cragg keeps it going, keeps all things functioning. He fixes things, takes on projects, and maintenance, and handles crisis situations in the middle of his main work. If I can’t find him, I tell the staff, sometimes it just works to step out the back door and yell, Help! Cragg!” Roberta says with a laugh. She wants to be sure and give every single staff member credit for their efforts. “From cleaning toilets to taking out garbage, everyone deserves to be mentioned.”

What inspired Roberta to start her adventure 28 years ago?
“Cragg was supportive, we had the land, and there was a niche to fill, and we felt it could be made into something.” And make it into something, they did.  Cragg and Roberta started small, with a kitchen, a case up front, and tables on the porch. Two remodels later, they fill to capacity, handle very long lines, and still provide an atmosphere of happy comfort
Happy locals insisted on photo bombing!

Big Decisions!

“The best education I received besides the Culinary Arts Program at Spokane Falls Community College, was the communication class that was required. I wouldn’t have thought of that.. Life is relationships, and good communication makes you a better manager. The food industry needs it! You always have to think about what someone else has gone through and walk in their shoes. It’s hard to remember, but it is a back and forth process, not just talking at employees.  It’s accepting feedback,  and giving them a chance.

Always a smile at the counter~ Gina

Roberta also cites her favorite help book, “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen Covey.….” as a guideline for good management, along with the “Seven Habits for Managers.” Covey’s influence of compassion in Roberta’s work presence is evident. Just ask her staff.

“What is it like to work for Robbie? She is more than a boss, she is a friend, “ Lindsey says as she is on task, wiping clean the proofing box. “She checks in on you.”
Baking assistant, Mairin is obviously in awe of her mentor. “She does so much. I don’t know when
Mairin visits before driving the Bakery Bus on her day off
she sleeps. She is up at 3:45am.…. She taught me the value of a twenty minute power nap, and also to never waste a step. Carry something out, carry something in. She is always looking for the most efficient way to do things.”

There is much more to Roberta and Cragg’s Stehekin Pastry  Company’s Success:
Tune in next week for “Part Two” where we play quick fire twenty questions about everything from Danish Rolls to Roberta’s favorite Brand of Coffee. l.c.
Roberta at work: Managing ten things at once
Find the Stehekin Pastry Company two miles north of Stehekin Landing--Mid May to Mid October