For Valerie Machorro, chef-owner of the new Evergreen Café, Bakery & Juicery, the pleasure of food is wrapped up in family, culture, and tradition. Some of her most treasured memories growing up include making soup with her grandmother and driving into Philadelphia every weekend from their home in West Grove for bread and coffee, pan con cafe. “I only recently found out that was weird,” she says with a laugh.
Evergreen Café, in Kennett Square’s new Cannery Row neighborhood, is a labor of love for Machorro and her family. In this vibrant, welcoming new space Machorro brings this authentic cuisine and fresh-brewed Colombian coffee to her new, expanding family of customers in Kennett Square.
Machorro grew up in a large and spontaneous family of entrepreneurs, and her family is an integral part of Evergreen. Her mother, Victoria Quijano, is an accountant and Machorro’s biggest inspiration and supporter. She’s also one of the smiling faces warmly welcoming customers at Evergreen most days. “Evergreen is a small, family business, owned and run by women,” says Machorro. She’s pleased that customers have been so excited to support a woman-owned business. Through the ups and downs of the past year, she’s experienced first-hand the trials and tribulations of starting a small business. She couldn’t have done it, she says, without the encouragement and all-hands-on-deck help from her family. “Even my 11-year-old brother is giving up hours of his summer vacation to wash dishes,” she says.
The twenty-two-year-old JNA graduate laughs when she talks about her circuitous route to doing what she loves. “I was convinced that I had to do something academic,” she says, and she did well in her first year of premed studies. “But then I realized I had to work with my hands, and I didn’t want to spend eight years in the dark in a library.” So she went to culinary school where, she says, “I should have been the whole time. Chefs are people who love to live.” Machorro brings experience at a variety of kitchens and a passion to create a joyful, caring balance to the business she’s created. “I love food, and people, and I want to do things beautifully,” she says.
Tasting Coffee Again for the First Time
Machorro’s mother Victoria came to America from Colombia when she was ten years old, and she instilled a love for her native country in each of her five children. Machorro has always been amazed by the wonderful products and fruits in Colombia that never make their way to this country, but her recent trip to Colombia connected her to her heritage in a new way. Part of her quest was to discover the elusive secret ingredient in almojabanas, or pandebono. No one shares their recipe for this most delicious of breads (which also happens to be gluten free). She’d tried at least 50 different recipes but still couldn’t figure out which cheese gives the bread its distinctive flavor. While in Colombia, she spent a day with a bread baker and was elated to finally solve the mystery.
I love food, and people, and I want
to do things beautifully.
Machorro has a super sensitive palate and associates tastes, synesthesia-like, with colors and memories. Although she was all about the bread when she arrived in Colombia, she says, while she was there she fell in love with coffee. She visited coffee plantations and met with cultivators who are dedicated to sustainability. And she tasted, as if for the first time, the nuanced flavors of their coffees. “I tasted olives, plums, citrus—it was amazing,” she says.
Evergreen’s coffee, which is brewed using Machorro’s favorite Colombian domestic roast (a coffee that Colombians themselves drink every day), is imported from Colombia twice a month. Customers can also choose beans from seasonally curated Colombian imports. Evergreen is a coffee purist’s heaven, with brewing methods including cold brew, French press, pour over, and siphon—Machorro’s “pride and joy, a magical mediation brewer.”
The Evergreen Ethos
The Evergreen ethos is to encourage healthy eating by offering fresh, delicious options that are affordable for families. “I want people to be able to enjoy a strawberry smoothie without the syrup that convenience stores add—and without having to pay $7,” Machorro says. She also offers a special kids menu, with sandwiches and fruit and smoothie bowls and drinks. Another part of the Evergreen ethos is the open kitchen and the organic connection that creates between the chef and the people eating. This is also part of Colombian culture. “I think it’s such a magical thing that our kitchen and dining area are so close,” Machorro says. “I love being able to see people every day and have them become familiar faces. I love being able to talk to people and have such an open dialogue about the food I’m serving them.”
Machorro is delighted to be here in Kennett Square. “I’ve always spent a lot of time in Kennett Square, and I love how it’s growing,” she says. “There are so many good places here, and I’m happy to be another one of those good places.” While there are a lot of wonderful Mexican restaurants here, she’s glad to be able to introduce people to another tradition in Hispanic cuisine. She’s also happy to be part of the exciting growth in this new neighborhood of Kennett Square, with great neighbors like Victory, Revolution BJJ, Yoga Secrets, and Textile.
We want to be able to be that one thing all good cafés are—a safe place.
Like family, community is important, Machorro says, and she’s eager to start planning community events. “We want to become something more than just an eatery. We want to be able to be that one thing all good cafés are—a safe place. Some of our ideas are spoken-word poetry nights, karaoke nights, and general hang-out nights for small groups.”
In addition to a delicious and unusual selection of hot drinks, smoothies, and juices, customers will find a variety of paninis and sammies and breakfast specials as well as freshly baked breads, pastries, and arepas. Machorro is also working on an app so people can order meals to go and so they’ll eventually be able to order weekend deliveries of fresh loaves and pressed juices.
The name “Evergreen,” Machorrosays, was inspired by a family brainstorming session. She wanted the name to reflect that the café is bright and alive. “And we also wanted the name to suggest that fresh greens are on the menu—my mom is a bit of a wheatgrass-drinking health nut,” she says. “I wanted the café to showcase my childhood favorites, like hot chocolate and milk bread for breakfast. I began to reminisce about my first memories with food, and they all began with my childhood home on West Evergreen. That was where I learned what love is. Love was hot chocolate with melted cheese and hot bread. Love was the smell of cumin and paprika mixed with the sound of my grandmother’s cumbia. Food and family filled my heart there. I suggested the name Evergreen, and it felt perfect. Everything green, everything lively, everything we love.”
Evergreen Café is open seven days a week, so no one has to drive all the way into Philadelphia for pan con cafe.