|“It wasn’t really a jump to bring our food here. It’s the only thing we know. That’s what we make — we make food off the cuff,” says Kellie Stevens, who owns and operates Farrago Market Cafe and Alley House Grille with her husband, Todd. “We both have very creative personalities, very artistic in a way, and we’re not afraid to mix flavors and ingredients from different ethnic groups.”
The Stevens opened Farrago’s five years ago with a simple idea that they still abide by: “We have confidence that if the foods we put out have the quality behind them and the flavor behind them, people will want them,” says Todd.
Admittedly, Todd and Kellie didn’t know what Pagosa needed in terms of food when they moved to the community, but have seen their food increasingly attract a wide variety of people and repeat customers.
“In the beginning, ranchers didn’t come here, it was mostly the younger, hip crowd that would come here because they kind of knew this food. Younger people tend to be more adventurous with food,” says Kellie, adding that now, at one time, she sees tables of “good ole boy” ranchers, moms waiting for their kids after school, snowboarders and retired folks filling the restaurant.
Despite having a strong base of repeat customers, the Stevens aren’t afraid to continue flexing their creative cooking muscles, often changing their menu and letting their customers find new combinations and favorites. “It’s always changing, it’s always evolving,” Todd says. “If it’s not the environment or the time of year, it’s changing the food.”
Both Todd and Kellie began in the restaurant business when they were in high school, developing a passion that sent them to the Western Culinary Institute in Portland, where the two met. Now, they enjoy helping their employees, many of whom have been with them years, develop passions of their own and have seen multiple employees head for culinary school.
“We love bringing kids in, teaching them and having them find as much passion through their own learning and environment as we do,” Kellie says.
And, indeed, the Stevens’ passion is apparent to anyone who speaks with them or sees them at work.
“I think that’s what Todd and I have, is a lot of passion for this business because you cannot work the hours you work and as hard as you work without a passion for food, a passion for the environment and a passion for people,” Kellie says. “You have to love people.”
“For us, it’s as much about the people as the food. If you look at food, it’s really about bringing people together,” says Todd. “And that’s what we really like about it. It provides us a format where we can get involved in a lot of stuff in town.”