Faces of Cafe Mac: Erika Fogtiene

By Karen Weldon

For Café Mac’s saucier, Erika Fogtiene, cooking is more than her occupation; it’s her way to share with her friends and family. While Fogtiene is a new member of the Café Mac staff, having come just last February, she has been working in food services since she was 15 and has had a passion for cooking since she was a child. “When I was little, my grandmother taught me how to cook, and before she passed away she told me, ‘You should be a sous chef,'” Fogtiene said. Since making mashed potatoes, chicken and dumplings and other homey American foods with her grandmother, Fogtiene has held an array of different positions, including her fulfilling her grandmother’s hope and becoming a sous chef. At 15, Fogtiene began working as busser at Rhinelander Cafe and Pub in Rhinelander, Wisconsin, cleaning and setting tables, and eventually worked her way up through at a series of food establishments to salad girl, pantry chef and finally to sous chef at another Bon Appétit account, the Conservatory Cafe. “[As a sous chef] I finally got to cook soups and entrees, after all those years as a salad girl,” Fogtiene said. She also had the opportunity to cater wedding receptions, and for three consecutive years Fogtiene and her coworkers won “Best Reception in the Twin Cities” from The Knot magazine for their catering. In her current position as saucier for Café Mac, Fogtiene mostly makes the stocks for soups and sauces for roasts and pasta, occasionally using the recipes that were passed down to her from her grandmother. “For the cream soup, I use my grandmother’s recipe; that’s why everyone likes it,” Fogtiene said. Her life as cook, however, extends past her shift in Café Mac. Fogtiene frequently cooks for her housemates, and whenever her friends need a cake for a special event, Fogtiene is more than happy to bake and decorate one for them. Fittingly, Fogtiene said that her favorite meal of the year is Thanksgiving because she has the chance to share her cooking with all her friends. Because her family lives in Wisconsin, Fogtiene invites her friends over for a Thanksgiving meal she cooks herself. “It’s my night to shine,” Fogtiene said. Like her love of cooking, sharing her talents also stems from her childhood. “When I was really little and my parents would leave to go shopping, I would make little appetizers for them when they got home,” Fogtiene said. Because of her love of cooking for others, it’s no surprise that, to Fogtiene, the best part of her job at Café Mac is the interactions she has with diners. “[My favorite part of the job is] watching someone’s face after they taste what I make,” Fogtiene said.