Used as an adjective in TLC, “tender loving” might sound cliché. But in the case of Tender Loving, a new café in Chico, it’s “an ideal,” explains co-owner Heath Dewey. “It refers to the coffee and food we offer and to how we treat others”
For the food, Dewey credits Tender Loving’s chefs Dan Anderson, the “pizza king,” and Wyatt Moak, the breakfast chef. “I’m not a chef,” says Dewey, “but I taste everything that goes on the menu. Anything you get in your mouth here should be amazing. Our chefs are magical.”
The ideal of Tender Loving also applies to what Dewey wants café diners to experience: “good vibes and great food.” Tender Loving also governs how the kitchen staff behave. In recent years, the media has exposed the abuse, not the tender loving, of kitchen staff in restaurant kitchens. Tender Loving’s kitchen staff treat each other the same way café patrons are treated. “It’s a safe place,” avows Dewey. “There’s no judgment. Everyone is treated with kindness.”
Tender Loving first manifested when the company was solely a coffee roaster. Over the three years that Dewey and Eric Fairchild have owned the company together, Dewey reports he has succeeded in wholesaling coffee roasts that themselves express tender loving, in all manner of coffee production from farming to harvesting to drying to marketing and roasting. It’s how Tender Loving’s coffee farmers treat the land, how they treat the beans and the workers, how they invest their profits.
“We didn’t really have in mind to open a café,” Dewey confesses, “but we needed a bigger roasting facility, and this space came open.” A café too could demonstrate Tender Loving, the owners figured.
The space has been through several iterations in recent years. The café Tender Loving shows off its redesign, a herringbone tile wall behind the kitchen and concrete counters, both of them designed and constructed by Fairchild. Dewey calls the décor “kind of a modern Art Deco.” The legs of the stools at the counter, welded by Old Chico Iron, exhibit the influence of the angel’s wings on New York City’s classic Art Deco Chrysler Building. Tender Loving’s chefs work in full view from an open kitchen the other side of a long café counter. Its coffee roasters operate behind a large window visible from the café’s dining tables.
View while eating. Looming in the kitchen is a giant Mugniani brand pizza oven, its hive-shape radiating warmth from wood fire and baking pies. On the menu along with seasonally inspired pizzas come sandwiches, flatbreads, salads, with plentiful vegan choices among them, pastries and dessert, coffee and tea, beer and wine. Tender Loving’s pizza king made me a pie with pesto, mozzarella, house-roasted fresh beets and red peppers, cauliflower, and a bit of red onion. The pie was amazing. 1 You too will find Tender Loving here:
365 East 6th St, Chico
Open Monday through Saturday, 7am to 8pm
Edible Shasta-Butte is the guide to local food, dining, and gardening in Northern California’s central valley from Butte County north to the Oregon border.