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Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2013

Troop Café: Supporting Veterans in our Community

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Founded earlier this year, the nonprofit Troop Café (3430 W. Wisconsin Ave.) is serving the community wholesome, delicious meals while providing U.S. veterans paid job training and employment in the culinary and hospitality business. Off the Cuff sat down with Manager Chris Kadrich and Executive Chef/Manager Greg Bautista to learn more about the café’s unique approach to business and its important role in helping veterans successfully transition back into a civilian lifestyle.

 

Tell me about Troop Café.

Kadrich: We want to be able to take vets and teach them about the food service industry. The great thing behind the concept is that we take the money and replenish the system. It’s probably one of the first nonprofit programs that actually will become self-funding.

 

How does the Troop Café training program work?

Kadrich: It’s a six-to-nine month program for military vets with a passion for food or who are thinking about a new career path. The guys that we have now are so advanced they’re helping train the newer people, which is the goal of Troop Café—the staggered approach to hiring.

 

What has it been like working with the veterans?

Bautista: Real rewarding. The bonding factor with these guys—it’s just very unique. And to see them progress through the program—they are taking ownership of Troop Café.

Kadrich: And really that’s the calling card of anyone we’re going to take into this program. It’s got to be bigger than you. It’s got to be about the next guy in front of you or behind you. It’s like in the military—we help each other out and we’re there for each other. That’s where the magic happens.

 

Why is offering training and hands-on experience in the culinary business an ideal way to reach out to veterans?

Kadrich: It’s a wide-open job market so, unlike a lot of things in the economy, food service is always hiring somebody.

 

Any menu favorites or new items to try?

Bautista: My favorite sandwich is always the Master Chief Beef. This is a slow-roasted pot roast in a nice, savory sauce with sautéed mushrooms and onions on a toasted ciabatta roll with melted Swiss cheese. Right now, because we want to expand breakfast, we’ve been working on a lot of plates. One of our most popular is the John Wayne Western Omelet. It has chorizo, pepper jack cheese and our fresh Pico.

 

Where do you see Troop Café going in the future?

Bautista: The big goal is to open up another Troop Café somewhere. Another thing to mention is that we cater. Right now, primarily, we do boxed lunches, so it would be a featured sub sandwich or a wrap, but we have the ability to do a hot buffet-style lunch and that’s really unique to us.

Kadrich: Who knows, eventually you may see a food truck by the courthouse, maybe a little cart by Bradford Beach with summertime treats in it or whatever. Maybe get a kiosk down at some of Milwaukee’s festivals.

 

Are you hiring veterans at this time?

Kadrich: Yes! Our application process is open to new military veterans. We want to get a pool of quality people that are really ready to take on a big challenge in their life. If somebody’s in school and they’re learning and they’re vets, then why not have your part time job be another training environment?

 

For more information about Troop Café or to apply, visit www.troopcakemke.com or find them on Facebook.