Why Coco

by Noreen Ovadia Wills

Noreen Ovadia Wills

“One day, I was a young sales woman at a high end designer women’s clothing store, the next, due to a store closing, I was jobless. Being 21 and relatively undirected, I stumbled into a restaurant and applied for a job. The owner and I made a deal: they were desperate for a sandwich maker and I was desperate for a job. Samantha gave me two weeks after which she could fire me or I could quit with no hard feelings on either side. Turns out, I was a natural at cooking, at speed, at presentation, at creativity; at what it takes to be a chef. Everything at that restaurant was made from scratch and I learned it all. Thus began a 20 plus year love affair with all things food and my introduction into the world of bread and pastry. My French bread baguettes made from the recipe I was taught consistently won “Best of Minneapolis St. Paul.” Later, after the passing of most of my parental rebellion, I realized that my Mom had taught me to make bread, béchamel sauce, and baba ganoush when I was small enough to need a stool to reach the counter.

As an adult, the very first time I stuck my nose into an entire 40-pound bag of basil still warm from the farm and inhaled, every beautiful food memory from my childhood came flooding back. Being first generation American, I had the opportunity to travel extensively in Europe. I was weaned on feta cheese, kalamata olives, European chocolate and Norwegian pastries. Once, I saw a cake shaped and decorated like a Faberge Egg in a pastry shop window in Athens. I ate a bowl of tomato soup at the bottom of a glacier in Switzerland – sun ripened tomatoes and cream fresh from the cows we watched grazing. I had shrimp freshly caught and steamed by the boat crew in the Oslo harbor, peeling them and throwing the shells to the seagulls.

These are the memories and experiences on which Coco is based. Here in the Chequamegon Bay peninsula are a dedicated group of farmers supplying as much bounty as the short growing season of northern Wisconsin allows. Our resident rhubarb pie junkie waits patiently during the winter months to bring in his rhubarb so that he can take out the supply in trade for pies. He doesn’t want money; he just wants pie. We all wait for strawberry season to offer us fruit to be dipped in chocolate, mixed into muffins, delicately arranged on cheesecakes, and of course poured over tender shortcake. A happy chicken makes a better tasting egg and a better tasting egg makes for better custards, cakes, and brioche. Apples grown and harvested with love and attention release their accumulated sunshine into every turnover, apple crisp or slice of pie.

“Made from Scratch” is not a food fad at Coco, but the culmination of a lifetime of eating, tasting, cooking and baking delivered to our customers with the love and respect that such carefully chosen recipes and ingredients deserve. Bayfield County’s many orchards, berry farms and gardens add to the joy of living here as well as our delight in creating delicacies with their produce. Somewhere between Parisian Boulanger, metro-chic, and Grandma’s kitchen lies the heart and soul of Coco. We welcome our customers to a leisurely cup of locally roasted Northwestern Coffee Mills coffee, a cup of tea, a bit of conversation and all the bounty that the Chequamegon Bay area has to offer.” – Noreen Ovadia Wills