Beyond the coffee: West Oak kitchen provides quality cuisine in pleasant atmosphere

Beyond the coffee: West Oak kitchen provides quality cuisine in pleasant atmosphere

Beyond the coffee: West Oak kitchen provides quality cuisine in pleasant atmosphere
November 06
12:32 2017

Maggie Montler’s day begins at 6 a.m. At the crack of dawn, the assistant kitchen manager of West Oak Coffee Bar counts inventory and calculates how many pies, quiches, cinnamon rolls and pieces of toast will sell for that day.

“It’s funny — sometimes people will order pie at 8 a.m.,” Montler said. “Everybody has their own breakfast.”

Many Dentonites are well-acquainted with West Oak Coffee Bar on the Square, famed for their delectable beverages. But there’s more to the establishment than coffee beans and draft beer — the influence of the kitchen can be seen through glass-enclosed pastries at the front counter or on the smiling faces of staff serving an order of toast and eggs.

What often flies under customers’ radars at West Oak is the kitchen at the back, bustling with activity of eight staff members.

Kitchen manager Amanda Northcutt has been with West Oak since the day it opened. Although she took a break to attend culinary school Le Cordon Bleu, she returned right after and said it was truly amazing to see the growth of the coffee shop during her absence.

“My background is medical,” Northcutt said. “I made a cake one day for my daughter’s birthday, and I took that and ran with it.”

West Oak’s kitchen prides itself in making their own bread and pastries like cookies, biscotti, pie, brownies and both savory and sweet scones. Their sourdough bread and toast are both vegan, and all the coffee is roasted right in the basement.

“When we opened, we wanted to able to have food and coffee and draw a crowd,” Northcutt said. “Everything is made from scratch, right down to the pie dough on our quiches.”

Northcutt said the most popular item on the menu is the espresso brownies, although Northcutt, ironically, is allergic to chocolate.

The West Oak kitchen also supplies treats for sale at their sister store Kimzey’s Coffee in Argyle. They will also soon supply product for Trinity Street Coffee Bar, the next coffee shop that will open in the West Oak family.

Northcutt said on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, the energy of the kitchen is focused on preparing meals that will be sent to Kimzey’s.

“Our delivery days are a little more hectic,” Northcutt said. “I have to drive. It’s not terrible because it is close.”

The kitchen team at West Oak also love to embrace their culinary creativity.

An example of this creativity is when Northcutt suddenly craved French onion soup. She saw the kitchen didn’t have the supplies, so she compromised using white wine, onions and veggie base to create what would become a special on the menu.

“We might have random cravings or ideas, and we say, ‘Hey, let’s try this,’” Northcutt said. “That’s the great thing about the team. They’re all really creative.”

Baker Leah Brooks trims dough to make a pie crust. West Oak Coffee Bar’s pie crusts are each made by hand and from scratch. Jacob Ostermann

Montler joined the West Oak kitchen staff with experience working at Bird Bakery in San Antonio. She checks inventory early in the morning, and she then begins preparing orders around 6:20 a.m.

West Oak opens their door around 7:30 a.m. and, often times, people will wait outside the doors.

“We usually get quite a bit of breakfast orders,” Montler said.

Montler said the kitchen runs food with a 10-minute ticket time or less, meaning that it’s their goal to prepare an order and run it to the customer in less than 10 minutes.

This can be difficult when the shop is bustling with people.

“When there’s events on the Square, we feel it — we get so busy,” Montler said.

But if the kitchen messes up, Montler said customers are typically still kind.

“People are forgiving, they know we are human,” Montler said.

Integrative studies junior Leah Brooks is another member of the kitchen staff at West Oak. After joining the team six months ago, she has earned her nickname the “cinnamon roll queen.”

“I’ve been working in kitchens just shy of five years,” Brooks said. “I’ve done quite a bit, but I have found love specifically for baking breads.”

Brooks said she’s a tactile learner and loves the experience of handling bread.

“I went to college at 18, and I didn’t know what I wanted to do or be, so I took some time off,” Brooks said. “I took a break from high education.”

Brooks found her niche in a kitchen setting when she went to Montana to be a camp counselor for a children’s retreat. After she took charge of managing the kitchen, she has loved it ever since and is now interested in pursuing culinary school.

“My favorite part about working here is the people,” Brooks said. “It sounds cheesy, but they’re such good people front and back of the house. The customers are great and the regulars are just the coolest.”

Featured Image: Baker Leah Brooks displays a sandwich she just made. West Oak Coffee Bar offers many different food items. Jacob Ostermann

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Anna Orr

Anna Orr

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