Chef Spotlight: Cole

Cole and her wife, Aisha Pew, operate Dovecote Cafe in Baltimore’s Reservoir Hill neighborhood. Cole, a graduate of Mills College and the London School of Economics, is founder of a social entrepreneur site called Brioxy. An Echoing Green fellow for her Brown Boi project, Cole worked in the White House as a scholar-in-residence for the Harry S. Truman Foundation. She has worked across the U.S. and internationally on issues of leadership and community economic development. Dovecote is a popular gathering place for the neighborhood, has been honored with Best of Baltimore awards, and hosts a monthly pop-up dinner featuring a local chef.


Get to Know Cole

We sat down with Cole to chat about food, family and what’s great about Baltimore.

How is Dovecote a part of the Reservoir Hill community?
C: The community owns this. This café belongs to this community; Aisha and I are simply stewards of it. It’s our responsibility to make sure the doors open every day, that our team has what they need to do their jobs well. We didn’t start the café to create wealth and make money; we started it to be of service to this neighborhood –because we wanted to be part of it.

Tell us about your chefs.
C: We have four chefs and they’re all amazing. All our baked goods are made fresh in house every day. In 2016, we won best café in City Paper, and best café again in 2017 from Baltimore magazine. We’ll be in Food & Wine in November. For us it’s about connecting food and community. Our chefs do that well, not only in the seasonal menu and how they curate the food, but how the food nourishes family and community.

Why did you move to Baltimore?
C: We came here from the Bay area. Originally, I am from DC and my wife is from New York. We wanted to get back to the East Coast. Baltimore has so much going for it. When we looked at seven cities, this was the one that had the most to offer. We’re excited about being here and being part of the community. We believe Baltimore has one of the largest communities of young black innovators; it’s an incredible untapped resource. There are so many artists, creatives, filmmakers, chefs and makers. For example, Jerrell Gibbs, whose art is on the walls, has been honored as one of the most creative minds in Baltimore.

How did you choose the neighborhood?
C: This neighborhood is historically Jewish and has a distinct black history, as well. Being able to honor both of those and make sure they are preserved is very important to us. This building was picked because my wife and her mother were walking the neighborhood and saw the building and fell in love with it.

Did you and Aisha have previous restaurant experience?
C: She has run retail companies. I grew up in kitchens. My dad, Gordon Cole, was a chef – he worked at a lot of restaurants in the Bay area. For all of our chefs and everyone who is connected on the food side, there is this legacy around food: so many people have fed us and have taken care of us and shown us love through their cooking. We’re all excited to build on that and grow from that.

Do you work with black purveyors and farmers?
C: There are several black farmers . Strength to Love is the largest of them. It’s an urban farm about eight minutes from here. They have incredible produce. We work with Whitelock Farm, which is around the corner. They do produce pop-ups here on Thursday mornings. Through a collaboration with Baltimore Free Farm, we give away about 500-600 pounds of produce every week .

Where do you like to go in Baltimore? Where do you take friends from out of town?
C: There are a lot of amazing places in the city that we love and connect with. There are some phenomenal black-owned businesses: We love to go to Grind House, one of the best juice bars in the city. We also love to swing by the new barbecue place on Greenmount, The BBQ. We love Coffee Therapy. There’s Flourish, close to Grindhouse and Keepers Vintage. It’s great to be able to connect with and support other entrepreneurs who are young and doing inspiring work. We think very intentionally of where we spend our dollars.

There are also so many incredible spaces that are putting out phenomenal food. We have a chef takeover once a month where we turn over the keys of the restaurant to a chef so they get their own restaurant for the night. It’s our way of creating more space for other black entrepreneurs that are driven by and love food in the city.

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