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While other restaurants around the nation were shuttering, either temporarily or permanently, one local chef was just getting started on her newest creation: Shona’s Food Company, which opened in late July.
Located at 570 N. Market Blvd., in Chehalis, Smith took the opportunity when her friend, the owner of Breakwall Cafe, which was previously located here, moved their business to another location.
“She asked if I would be interested,” Smith said. “She knew I had been laid off and I really loved this space and the idea of being able to do something for myself. And here I am.”
Though this is Smith’s first time owning a cafe, she is no stranger to the food industry. Smith has worked as the head chef at Jeremy’s Farm to Table, Joy’s Once Upon a Thyme and was an executive chef at a golf course.
Her love of food and cooking came after she moved with her mom, who was also a chef, and little brother from the mountains of Oregon to Belfast, Ireland. There, her mother opened up a Mexican restaurant in the city of 300,000 that is known as the birthplace and construction of the Titanic. Smith could see the shipyard cranes that built the Titanic from her bedroom skylight.
At the restaurant, Smith was a waitress and prep cook, her little brother washed dishes and her mother was the chef. They would visit the beaches of northern Ireland and harvest cockles to eat.
“Food has just been the center of my life since I could remember,” Smith said.
It was also during a time period known as The Troubles, a three-decade-long violent conflict between nationalists and unionists in northern Ireland.
“You had soldiers patrolling with machine guns in hand and we were like, ‘What is going on?’” Smith said. “A lot of chaos and turmoil. You’d be shopping in the city and you’d be rushed away and then there would be car bombs detonating. It was absolutely crazy.”
The family spent nearly six years there, while Smith was between the ages of 9 and 15 years old, before moving back to the states. They eventually landed in Chehalis and Smith graduated from W.F. West.
Smith still goes back to Ireland to visit her grandparents, who were the inspiration for her meat pies, which are the specialty at her new cafe. They come in four varieties: traditional Scottish lamb with mint sauce; pork sausage; potato, cabbage, chive and sheep cheese; and cheese and onion.
“I really wanted to do something I was very connected to and I could have fun with,” Smith said. “I thought, ‘Oh, grab-and-go, I’m going to do some meat pies and pastries and put all those passions into something I’m connected to.”
Smith also offers baked goods, including her aunt Sharon’s Scottish shortbread. To bring it back to the American side, Smith offers an Oakie buttermilk banana cake, which was inspired from her other grandmother who taught her to bake, along with a dark chocolate Texas cake.
“Just kind of a culmination of both sides of my ancestry to bring it back to real good comfort food that makes me so happy, and playing around with everything in between,” Smith said. “I love getting to the root of food and doing research.”
One customer came in and asked for a yooper pasty, a type of meat pie with potatoes, onions and spices that was brought to Michigan by immigrant miners from England. So Smith researched it and was able to recreate it for him.
Smith also incorporates the sheep cheese she uses at the cafe into as many recipes as possible. Her cheese cakes are made with fresh Black Sheep Creamery cheese, she makes her own ice cream with sheeps’ milk for the affogato espresso and also in the cheese and onion pasty. All the produce and eggs are also sourced locally.
It’s been rewarding not being stuck back in the kitchen all day and actually being able to reconnect and talk with people, Smith said, who does everything by herself. She’s the cook, dishwasher, waitress and runs the cash register. Business has been surprisingly well, too, she said. People have been coming in to eat often and there is also outdoor seating available, as well.
“I finally get that addition back to my food to really talk about it and share my passion,” Smith said. “It’s been a dream come absolute true.”
More Information on Shona’s Food Company
Owner: Shona Smith
Location: 570 N. Market Blvd., Chehalis
Hours: 6 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday to Friday; 6 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday
Top-selling items at Shona’s Food Company
Lamb with mint sauce meat pie
Pork sausage meat pie
Roast beef bap
Aunt Sharon’s Scottish shortbread
Appalachian apple pie