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- Joe Buley at Café NOA
Joe Buley, chef and co-owner of the wholesale soup business Joe's Kitchen at Screamin' Ridge Farm, returns to the restaurant sector with this week's opening of Café NOA in Montpelier. Buley and his wife and co-owner, Lori Martin Buley, both 59, named the café using the first initials of their three grown daughters' names.
The daytime café occupies a newly renovated 1,600-square-foot, 75-seat space at 8 Putnam Street, next door to the soup production kitchen. It will open at 6:30 a.m. daily and serve Joe's Kitchen soups, naturally, along with breakfast fare, salads and sandwiches, many of which will star house-smoked and -roasted local meats.
Over two decades ago, the couple's daughters motivated Buley to leave a high-powered culinary career in Austin, Texas, for a teaching job at the now-shuttered New England Culinary Institute in Montpelier that allowed him more family time.
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"I burned out and escaped," Buley said of his restaurant experience. "I'm coming back under my own terms."
The soup business, which launched in 2007, will remain the "anchor" of the operation, Buley said. He has been working on the café concept for several years as a "fun retail outlet" for the soups, which are sold regionally through co-ops and independent food markets. The new eatery will also generate income during the summer soup lull and provide full-time, year-round employment to about 16 team members.
During the summer, the café's deck will host music and pop-up events, including the barbecue feasts and "cans 'n clams" seafood shack that Buley used to set up outside the production kitchen.
Buley said he sees Café NOA as filling an early morning niche in Montpelier. Breakfast sandwiches on house-baked English muffins will include a steak-and-egg option made with house-smoked brisket. The contractors who worked on the new café are happy about that, according to Buley: "They said, 'We won't have to go to Cumberland Farms for breakfast anymore.'"