Two transplants to Matthews are forging their way into the food scene and are bringing a slice of their heritage and roots with them.
Both Marci Dagenhardt’s Marci’s European Sweets and StrudelTeig, a food truck bakery owed by Marvin and Cora Adcock, are using recipes and recipe books provided by their grandparents. They represent the latest wave of ethnic food-vendors who are changing the palette and cultural landscape in and around Matthews. Both have been in business for approximately one year.
Marci, originally from the Czech Republic, started baking when she was very young – especially Christmas cookies – a time-worn annual family tradition. Originally schooled in hospitality, Marci moved to the US to be a nanny. After marrying, she turned to baking as a way to remain connected to her homeland. It also brought her enormous comfort.
When Marci’s beloved 93-year-old grandmother sent her 1947 recipe book last Christmas, she took it as a “sign” and began baking in earnest for others. She and her husband recently built their 4800 square foot home in Matthews, complete with a separate kitchen intended for her growing business. Not only does she now bake for a living, but the actual preparation and being in the separate kitchen space provide a way to relieve stress daily.
She fondly speaks of using marzipan as an ingredient, has baked many new European-style goods to find the perfect fit for her business, and constantly searches for new Czech recipes to add to her growing offerings. Recently, her cousin in the Czech Republic sent her a new fudge recipe – it’s all a way to remain connected to her family. Of her grandmother’s feelings? “She loves it,” Marci said. “She’s so proud.”
And, now, it’s a new way to connect with others.
“I try to bring (food) to people to open their mind,” said Marci, noting that many people stop in to tell her about their grandparents who come from Europe. “I (sometimes) say, ‘Wow, I’m not here by myself!’ “
Moravian gingerbread, Linzer cookies, honey cake, poppy seed cookies, Bohemian and Moravian kolache, rugelach, and marshmallow fondant cake are just a few of her specialties. This is not just about business, she insists, but about “bringing people joy. …and experience something new… Sweet can be sweet, but not sugary-sweet (like in America). I want to help American people know the culture. I want people to experience that there are (foods) different than what’s here." To get an authentic flavor, she imports some ingredients from the Czech Republic. She also ships her baked goods across the US.
Marvin Adcock brought together his desire to work for himself with the culture and cuisine of his Austrian-born wife, Cora (with a nod to some German and Swiss-cuisine specialties, and incorporating the cuisine of other European/Eastern European countries). “My passion was to cook for people and use the recipes from her background,” he said. Last year, they purchased a food truck. “There are no European food trucks” around here, said Cora, who has drawn from country-favorites and used some recipes from her grandfather’s restaurant in Austria.
The couple takes pride in their all-natural, locally-sourced ingredients.
Their truck offers a way to be mobile and cater to many different crowds. They use their food truck for “foods that take less time to prepare” which include pretzels, Viennese Apple strudel, and Bavarian pretzel melt (grilled cheese), to name a few. They’ve also started a separate catering business which is quickly growing to include things like Speckknödel, Schweinebraten, Viennese Gulasch, Hungarian Krautstrudel, and Käsespätzle.
They, too, say that international travelers and fellow Austrians/Europeans come up to the truck in search of authentic foods they can’t find elsewhere.
While both companies have a strong online presence (for ordering), in the future, both groups would like to own small European cafés. For Marvin, that would be intended to serve breakfast foods; Marci would like a European coffee shop (adding on her husband’s passion for coffee) with two separate areas – one for people who wish to have quiet and the other side for “moms with kids.” “Every woman from my family goes to the coffee shop on Thursday…we talk….and the kids can play together. They serve small sandwiches, sweet stuff and have peace,” she said with a smile, noting that she is now the mother of a newborn.
For both entities, the opportunity to share their respective cultures here is not lost, nor taken for granted. “It’s not just food,” said Cora, adding that she also posts photos of Austria, on their site, to give a broader overview of the beauty of the country. “I think that the greatest part of America is the ability to live your culture (freely) here,” said Marvin.