After a nearly three-year hiatus, The Redwood, a cafe at Avenidas in downtown Palo Alto, reopened on Monday, October 3. Run by chef Julien Cellier, the cafe serves breakfast and lunch Monday through Friday.
This is the first cafe Cellier has ever run, a milestone that builds on a career spanning around 15 years in the industry after graduating from the Vatel Institute in Paris.
Cellier, originally from Lyon, France, has spent years working in France and the United States, including Wisconsin and Washington, D.C. Two years ago, he started a business offering catering, meals packaged and private chef in Palo Alto. Even though word of his business only spread by word of mouth, he soon found himself in need of a larger kitchen and staff to fulfill incoming orders, he said. His customers have regularly told him that they would like to have a place where they can eat his culinary creations at any time.
Eventually he connected with Avenidas, which had lost its former coffee vendor when the pandemic hit. Cellier said he and his staff worked hard to put together the cafe’s menu and prepare the space for customers.
Amy Yotopoulos, President and CEO of Avenidas, said that when she started in this role about a year ago, one of the first and most frequent questions she received was: ” When will the cafe reopen?
“It took a while, as it does these days, but it was worth the wait,” she said.
Incorporating a café space into Avenidas was a concept born during the renovation of the senior center in 2017 and 2018, she said. The idea was that in many homes, the kitchen and dining room are essential gathering places for households. And while senior centers are usually open to the public, sometimes people think there’s nothing for them. It’s a notion they hope to change by inviting the public into the new café.
One thing customers might notice are the very reasonable prices by Palo Alto standards, she adds. Most lunch items are between $11 and $12, with breakfast items $6 and under. Avenidas members will receive a 10% discount on all listed prices.
For Cellier, affordability is an important part of his approach to cooking. “I’ve always tried to be an advocate for affordable food or fine dining. I think fine dining should be for everyone, not just the rich,” he said.
When asked if he had any special menu considerations for seniors served by Avenidas, Cellier said he was looking forward to serving the same menu to all customers. He plans to change the menu with some regularity depending on the season and wants to help customers of all ages discover new foods.
Many menu items have either a special ingredient or a subtle French twist. For example, the prosciutto sandwich has a fire-roasted eggplant and red pepper sauce, while the roast beef sandwich comes with a French bearnaise sauce flavored with shallots and tarragon. These offers are in addition to the essentials of more clearly French cafes, such as the croque monsieur and the quiche lorraine.
Cellier will continue to offer ready meals, catering and private chef services. Its weekly specials are posted on his site and are available for pick-up at Avenidas, with the latest dishes including pork stew, lasagna and basquaise chicken.
“I don’t feel like I have to work every day. I love what I do and I’m so passionate about it,” says Cellier. “I spend a lot of time here in the kitchen, but I like it.”