Walk into Harvest Café in Lakeside Hills and you feel it. You feel that this restaurant is a bit different from others. This one has emotion to it. I didn’t know the story behind Harvest Café before I walked in, yet I could feel that there was a great deal of heart and soul behind it. My first view was of the fireplace which has a small picture frame of a beautiful woman in it. It almost feels like the woman is there to be your host – to welcome you to the restaurant. I now understand why. Tom and Tricia Sawyer were married for 19 years and in 2007, they began thinking about their dreams in life. That year, after Tricia studied culinary arts at Metropolitan College, and Tom left his career in Road Construction Safety, they planned to open a restaurant in Elkhorn. However, when Tricia was diagnosed with breast cancer, they stopped those plans and focused on each other and their family. They traveled, lived and experienced the tastes and life of Napa Valley in California. They learned about organic foods and the power of their nutrients. They focused on clean eating while still enjoying their love of wine and food together. In 2010, Tricia lost her battle with cancer after it spread to her lymph nodes and treatment was unsuccessful. However, after mourning her loss and living in sadness, Tom decided to honor his wife’s memory and continue to pursue their dream. The restaurant they dreamed of together, named Harvest, opened three months ago and has been a success for lunches, and recently opened the dining room for dinners as well. When opening the restaurant, Tom wanted to work with a chef who shared his vision and passion for organic, clean ingredients. He found a shared mind in Robert K. Barr, an experienced chef with over 30 years in the industry, including being a chef for the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs. Robert’s influences are rooted in French cooking from his time studying in Chablis and Lyon, and he presents his dishes with the theme of casually elegant.
When I recently dined at Harvest Cafe, I had an opportunity to speak to Tom. He talked to me about the name “Harvest” and how it relates to everything in life, “everything is harvested”, he explained. He said that that idea came from his wife and that he understood that it went beyond harvesting food, it went into harvesting life. When speaking of his wife, the emotion from Tom is very apparent and you now understand why that picture sits on top of the fireplace – because she IS this restaurant. I told him that he should put a family picture on the wall somewhere but he seemed to just be happy with that one image – as if to tell me that it isn’t about anyone else. That passion is also there when he talks about the food being served at the restaurant. His goal is to serve, “good, clean food” and he talked about not wanting to push organics down anyone’s throat. He believes in fresh produce, fresh meats and trying to use as many local, farm fresh products as possible.
While eating at Harvest Café, I felt that wonderful feeling like someone was cooking just for me. From the warmth of the Roasted Tomato soup to the sweetness of the Harvest salad, I was thrilled to enjoy fresh ingredients prepared in a delicious manner. Each dish tasted simple yet delicious. In looking at the ingredients used, Tom explained that they are looking to change the menu every three months to reflect the seasonal availability of food. Additionally, he believes that food should be paired with wine and will offer a plentiful wine list, organic beers and a few spirits. The liquor license was slated for the week of November 13.
When Tom first told me the story behind Harvest Café, I felt such sadness for his loss. However, as our conversation grew, I began to realize that he took his grief and put it into an amazing endeavor that is on the path to success. He actually lives the word “harvest” every day. I think that picture on the fireplace is a gentle reminder for us all to appreciate the “harvests” we have in our lives. And after dining there, I know that I definitely will.