Chef Kate Chadwick Keeps it Fresh and Local for Dunsmuir's Dogwood Diner
By Melissa Mendonca
Kate the GreatNovember 2014
By Melissa Mendonca
Photos: Taryn Burkleo
Not a week goes by without someone walking into the Dogwood Diner looking for Hurricane Kate. Kate Chadwick, executive chef of the popular Dunsmuir eatery, is happy that there’s enough crossover of customers between her current digs and the oncepopular restaurant she owned in the coastal town of Eureka named, aptly, Hurricane Kate’s.
The talented chef, who creates meals from locally sourced, sustainable, organic ingredients, has traveled the world, working in places as diverse as Israel, New Orleans and Hawaii, and brought influences from each place to her new North State home and the diner.
“I call it California comfort food,” Chadwick says of her menu items. “It’s really healthy food and it’s whole food.”
But about that Hurricane thing. The moniker came one day in Flagstaff, Ariz., when she came into a restaurant early to prep for a big catering event. By the time her co-workers walked in a few hours later, the kitchen looked like a powerful weather force had moved through.
There’s also the fact that she’s always on the move. Of that, though, she says, “I’m kind of trying to let that persona go and be more mellow.”
The Dogwood Diner opened in April 2012, mere months after Chadwick first visited Dunsmuir at the request of its owner, Debra Day, to serve as chef. “I just fell in love with the landscape, the pocket canyon and the building,” she says. “I could see something here.”
That “something” is the added ingredient to the success of the diner. It’s more than fresh, healthy, delicious food. There’s a core belief in the town itself and a desire to see it flourish. The diner’s name comes from the more than 52 dogwood trees planted by community members to honor their loved ones. “We liked the sound of it and thought it was a reflection of the community,” Chadwick says.
“The thing for me about this area is the potential,” she adds. “It’s still kind of undiscovered.”
The efforts to get Dunsmuir discovered include working within a larger community context to renovate historic buildings, developing gathering activities such as a harvest festival and community garden, and creating businesses that attract locals and visitors alike, a la the Dogwood Diner and soon to be opened Buttercup Bakery, another Chadwick endeavor.
“It’s a small community, but it’s right on the I-5 corridor,” she says, noting that she appreciates what she refers to as the “mountain integrity” of the people, who also keep an eye toward the future. “We’re hopeful and optimistic that it’s going to continue to grow. And it’s been growing every year.”
Keeping things fresh and local means using the offerings from the Dunsmuir community garden and area farmers markets. Local farmers and gardeners have been known to drop off extra produce, as well. “When people realize that we do this, they bring us stuff,” says Chadwick, who once developed a dish from a bushel of fresh plums brought in.
Offering up the sweets at the diner is Kelley Brentt, who has been waitressing there since just a few months shy of its opening date. “We were short a baker so I’ve just been giving it a whirl,” she says. A selftaught enthusiast, Brentt has always enjoyed baking for friends and family and now finds that the love extends to the customers of the diner.
People look forward to her berry and cream tartlets and the fact that she always has at least one gluten-free offering available.
The Dogwood Diner sits across from the railroad tracks on Sacramento Avenue and adjacent to Brown Trout Vintage, a companion business that shares an interior door to the diner. The atmosphere is bright and airy, with high ceilings and an eclectic décor reflective of the artistic, outdoor and vintage passions of those who call Dunsmuir home.
Strewn here and there are notices to “Eat well. Be well.” From the standard fare of a burger to the more adventurous offerings of polenta with sausage and eggplant, care is taken down to the smallest details. Fries are hand-cut and cooked in rice bran oil. Ketchup and sausage are house-made. Meat is locally sourced.
“We don’t believe that you have to sacrifice anything by eating whole foods and healthy foods,” says Chadwick, emphasizing her commitment to creating menu items that “are always satisfying.”
5841 Sacramento Ave., Dunsmuir